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Sri Lanka floods appeal launched

The United Nations has said it will appeal for emergency flood aid for Sri Lanka, where 37 people have died, hundreds of thousands are homeless and vast rice fields ready to be harvested are now under water.

The flooding has disrupted the livelihoods of many in the eastern region hardest hit after the heavy rains.

The UN will issue an appeal in the coming days for money to help replant the fields and compensate people affected, UN Resident and Humanitarian Co-ordinator Neil Buhne said in a statement on Friday.

"I urge donors to generously support priority needs such as mosquito nets, clean water and food," he said.

US Ambassador Patricia Butenis said that America is providing Sri Lanka with £189,267 in flood assistance. The US has given boats to evacuate those marooned and donated bottled water, cooking materials and tarps, the embassy said.

Ten more people were reported dead on Saturday, raising the death toll to 37 with 12 others missing and 49 injured, Pradeep Kodippili of the Disaster Management Centre said. The biggest number of deaths - 18 - were recorded in Batticaloa district. Nearly 390,000 remain homeless and 3,744 houses have been totally destroyed, he said.

As flood waters slowly receded in the worst-hit Eastern Province, some people in Karaithivu village in eastern Ampara district came out and cleaned their houses for rituals marking the ethnic Tamils' traditional harvest festival.

Sellaih Rasiah, a community leader in Karaithivu, said villagers affected by the devastating 2004 tsunami have lost most of their belongings and would again have to start anew. Schoolchildren have lost their books and clothes, he said.

The mud-walled hut with a coconut palm roof where Muttumari Jegathisvaran, a 25-year-old labourer, lived was collapsed. All his belongings had been flushed away and the banana trees and vegetable plants in his garden were dead and discoloured. "There is no festival for us. I have no work, no place to live," he said.

The government has estimated the flood losses at £315 million.

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