The estate authorities have shirked their responsibility in the relocation of the workers in the Meeriyabedda Division despite repeated warnings about possible landslides, Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera told Parliament yesterday.
He said President Mahinda Rajapaksa had ordered that this matter be probed
In a statement on the landslide, the minister told the House more than a hundred people had lost their lives and said the number believed to be missing appeared less than initially thought.
He said a few more people who had gone out for work had arrived yesterday and this was in addition to the 75 students and 100 others who had survived the tragedy.
"The number seems to be less now. But we are cautious enough not to rush in with the figures of those missing," the minister said.
He said the residents had not moved out despite landslide warnings on two earlier occasions and that the estate authorities had failed to discharge their responsibilities in relocating the workers despite the grave risk involved.
"The President has ordered a probe against this estate company and on other companies that have not allocated lands for the relocation of workers from vulnerable areas. If they do not release lands earmarked for the purpose, we will acquire them. The Cabinet decided to enact fresh legislation if necessary," the minister said.
He said the government had the necessary resources to respond to this disaster and urged philanthropists to donate scholarships for the affected children instead of donating food aid.
The minister also asked people living nearby not to flock in large numbers to the landslide area because it was hindering rescue and relief operations.
"We received information that some individuals and groups are trying to collect money and relief items. People are requested not to be deceived by such unscrupulous elements. We have enough resources for relief operations and I have released Rs.500,000 to the Badulla District Secretary and released Rs.2 million more for relief operations ," he said.( Kelum Bandara and Yohan Perera)