LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Floods in Sri Lanka which have forced more than 350,000 people from their homes have left some families with nothing, the Red Cross said on Wednesday as it launched an emergency appeal to deliver relief to tens of thousands of people in the country.
Last week's floods, considered the worst natural disaster in the Indian Ocean region since a 2004 tsunami, destroyed more than 125,000 houses and killed at least 92 people, with a further 109 feared trapped beneath landslides.
"This disaster hit families living in both rural and urban areas," Igor Dmitryuk, head of office at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Sri Lanka, said in a statement.
"Some lost everything and the priority is to meet their immediate needs with food, clean water, clothing and household items," he said.
The appeal for 3.6 million Swiss francs ($3.6 million) will help 40,000 people over the next 18 months with relief items, cash transfers and guidance on safer shelter construction as they rebuild their homes, he said.
It will also provide grants for community projects to boost resilience in rural areas, and go towards repairing damaged irrigation canals and other infrastructure.
Days of torrential rain triggered floods and two landslides in the Kegalle district, about 75 miles (120 kms) east of the capital, Colombo.
Red Cross workers will ensure that people at temporary shelters have access to safe water and sanitation as part of a health and awareness campaign to prevent the spread of disease.
"There will be a lot of standing water as the floods recede which heightens the risk of disease, particularly in urban areas," Dmitryuk said.
"We need to be vigilant to avert any public health crisis, particularly as further rains are forecast with the start of the monsoon."
The IFRC said its teams have been helping in search and rescue efforts in the five worst affected districts of the country, as well as providing psychological support and first aid, reaching 140,000 people.
On Monday, the Sri Lankan government estimated the cost of floods and landslides at between at least $1.5 billion and $2 billion.
($1 = 0.9911 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Magdalena Mis; Editing by Jo Griffin.; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)