The News Minute | December 22, 2014 | 7:50 am IST
More than 40,000 people have been displaced in the north central and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka as heavy torrential rains made dams overflow and hampered transport services, an official said Sunday.
The town of Batticaloa was the worst hit, with an estimated 30,000 people displaced from their homes, according to a report in Xinhua.
Thousands more had to be evacuated, including those from tourist hot spots such as Anuradhapura, by the army and navy.
The towns of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa in the north central province are also known for rice cultivation and hundreds of dams provide water in the usually arid region.
Lashed by heavy showers for days, as many as 29 big dams and 83 medium ones had reached spill level, forcing sluice gates to be opened, threatening people living downstream.
"The safety of pilgrims and foreign visitors is being given priority. They have been evacuated from hotels near major tanks, while pilgrims were removed from the sacred city," Anuradhapura District Secretary, Mahinda Seneviratne said.
Severe rain is expected to continue during the Christmas week, dampening relief efforts.
According to the meteorological department's Jeewan Karunaratne, a disturbance in the upper atmosphere had activated the northeast monsoon.
"We are expecting heavy rains in the coming weeks as atmospheric disturbances are occurring in a wave pattern," he said. Landslide warnings have also been issued in four districts in central Sri Lanka.
The floods have also hampered road and railway transport services and trains carrying mail from Colombo to the east and north were reportedly cancelled after tracks were submerged at several places.