More than 17,000 people remain displaced because of flooding this week in Sri Lanka and are staying in disaster relief centres, the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) reports.

The floods were caused by days of torrential early monsoon rains that began on 14 May.

More than 524,000 people were affected in the south, west and central parts of the country, the agency reported on 21 May.

In the western district of Gampaha, the worst affected, more than 12,500 people and 3,600 families were displaced, Pradeep Kodippily, the DMC's assistant director, told IRIN in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.

More than 1,500 homes were damaged or destroyed throughout the affected areas of the island, with 24 deaths and 50 injuries, mostly in Gampaha, he said.

Of the 85 disaster relief centres now in operation, 59 are in Gampaha, with another 26 in Colombo District, where more than 4,700 people are now homeless.

Other affected districts include Kalutara, Kegalle, Rathnapura, Kurunegala, Galle, Puttalam, Trincomalee, Matara, Anuradhapura, Nuwar Eliya and Mannar, the DMC said.

And while most of these areas are coping, people in Gampaha - where 194,000 people were affected - are reeling.

"Several by-roads are inundated - we are actively working on relief operations," Kodippily told IRIN.

"The situation has calmed down a little bit; however, we cannot say the situation is over because it's the pre-monsoon season," Minister of Disaster Management, Abdul Hameed Mohamed Fowzie, said.

"Nobody expected rainfall of 330mm [within a 24-hour period of 19-20 May] - this comes as a shock not only to the government but to everyone," he said.

Many of the affected did not want to relocate to disaster relief centres but chose to remain in their homes, worried about their property.

"We in government are trying to provide relief for people despite their locations - at IDP camps or at affected residences," Fowzie said.

Surien Peries, head of operations for the Sri Lanka Red Cross, said it was continuing to assist people in affected areas.

"The situation is now getting better as 'Cyclone Laila' is headed out of Sri Lanka," he said.


"Our houses are flooded. We have become refugees overnight." Suresh Cabral, 43, in Colombo said.

He and his five-member family are now living in a temporary shelter outside the home of a relative in Colombo.

"This is not the first time we have been affected - but it's probably the worst. It's high time the authorities find a permanent solution for this flooding problem," he said.

Said one local aid worker on the ground in Gampaha: "It's shocking, really - most of us were caught by surprise as we did not expect flooding of this magnitude. It's definitely a good lesson for the authorities."

According to Sri Lanka's meteorological department, the rains are expected to continue throughout the weekend.