11 Jun 2013

No warning of storm given to fishermen

5:34 am on 11 June 2013

At least 40 people are now known to have died in severe storms which hit western Sri Lanka over the weekend.

At least 30 remain unaccounted for. Most were fishermen operating near the coastline in very small boats.

Navy personnel were retrieving bodies throughout Sunday and Monday.

An inquiry has begun into whether the meteorology department did enough to warn fishermen on Friday of the dangers of going out to sea.

A BBC correspondent said communities along the coast were in a state of shock after so many fishermen failed to come back alive.

"Waves were going over our heads - it was hell," one survivor said. Fishermen depend on weather bulletins, but received no warnings about the storm.

Meteorology department officials have defended their conduct, saying they provided an alert on Friday once they received information about conditions.

The rain and winds destroyed more than 100 houses and damaged another 2,185 buildings, disaster management spokesman Sarath Lal Kumara was quoted as saying by AFP.