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Tens of thousands hit by Sri Lanka floods

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Heavy monsoons in recent days have caused widespread flooding in Sri Lanka, affecting about 800,000 people, many needing basic supplies, officials said.

The BBC, quoting authorities, said at least 16 people have died so far. The flooding showed no signs of easing.

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The flooding and the threat of landslides forced the closing of schools in three provinces Tuesday, officials said.

Wijayasiri Herath, provincial director of education in Central province, told Colombo Page the schools would reopen Friday. Shashendra Rajapaksa, chief minister in Uva province, said classes in Welimada, Bandarawela, Passara and Badulla would be back in session Thursday if the weather improves. Eastern province Education Minister Wimalaweera Dissanayake also said schools in that province would remain closed until late in the week.

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The Sri Lankan government Web site said the Disaster Management Center reported more than 800,000 people from 218,007 families have been affected by the floods and about 70,000 people were being housed in emergency relief camps.

The Hindu newspaper said the number of those affected could be higher. Details were not immediately available from four of the affected districts.

The newspaper said nearly a foot of rain fell in the Batticaloa region Sunday. The report said some 10 districts from Trincomallee in the north to Ampara in the south are among the worst hit.

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Colombo Page reported the government issued a public appeal for help seeking drinking water, clothing, mats and milk food for children.

The local office of the World Food Program said it plans to provide emergency food assistance to some 400,000 flood victims.

At least 132,000 acres of rice fields have been ruined.

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Officials said about 170 small irrigation tanks in Batticaloa, Polonnaruwa, Ampara, and Anuradhapura districts were destroyed.

The government Web site said the United Nations Children's Fund was providing hygiene kits and water purification tablets as rising floodwaters threatened an outbreak of dengue fever.

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