Salawa Army Camp fire: A mystery yet to unfold

7 June 2016 12:05 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


PM assures to repair damaged houses in Salawa

An explosion at the Salawa Army Camp has raised concerns among those with vested interests.  According to residents, the fire which broke out at around 5.30 p.m. on Sunday has continued till yesterday morning.  The Daily Mirror reporters who visited a few villages situated within a one kilometre radius from the army camp, saw that many of the houses were damaged with shrapnel piercing the roofs. 

esidents living withing an area of one to 1.5 kilometre radius were evacuated on Sunday night following this unforseen tragedy. 

we should take action to provide meals and water : PM

At a news conference held at the Pahathgama Divisional Secretariat yesterday, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe assured the residents that the government would rebuild or repair the houses depending on the extent of the damage caused by the explosion. 
“I will make sure that these houses are rebuilt and handed back to the residents. Right now we should take action to provide meals and water to the displaced. An area within one kilometre radius has still been marked unsafe,” the Prime Minister said.


Disaster Management Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa told the news conference that 1,120 people from 186 families had been displaced and were being housed at temporary shelters in Padukka, Bope and Watareka. 
“With the electricity in the area still to be restored we will inform the residents that news on the situation reaches them through regular announcements. We have also made arrangements to distribute dry rations, cooked meals and water to the displaced. In another 48 to 96 hours the military will be able to clear the area and the people will be able to return,” the minister said.
According to the report submitted by the Divisional Secretary, 18,628 people living within a radius of one kilometre have been displaced with those living in Salawa, Kaluaggala, Suduwella, Mawalgama, Kadugoda North, Muruthagama, Akarawita, Lower Kosgama West and Brandiyagampola being affected.  In addition 12,572 people living within a five-kilometre radius in Kahatapitiya, Giraidula, Kalampalla West, Kanamvipalla North, Upper Kosgoda North and South and Kadugoda have been affected. 
The military warned the people to avoid touching any ammunition fragments because of the danger and could ignite due to the heat. According to the military, the people could return to their houses by Thursday or Friday.

The real cause of this fire needs to be investigated
: Prof. Ananda Samarasekara

Ex-Colombo Judicial Medical Officer Professor Ananda Samarasekara stated that when ammunition stores are in close proximity of the residents, usually they should be warned. “There are no specific guidelines about how ammunition should be stored. When the military store ammunition, certain precautions have to be taken as well. In this situation we need to look at the cause of the fire and also whether the safety measures have been taken. The real cause of this explosion needs to be investigated. These kind of things happen in other countries as well but we should always make sure that the military has always taken precautions to safeguard the people.”

"These kind of things happen in other countries as well but we should always make sure that the military has always taken precautions to safeguard the people"

Some of the memories shared by residents of Kaluaggala with  are featured below.

We were not informed before this area was unsafe

On Sunday at around 5.30 p.m. I heard loud noises similar to an explosion. When I went out of my house I saw that a huge area was covered with smoke. It was only then that we came to know that the Army camp was on fire. There are approximately 20 villages in this area. We were not informed before this area was unsafe.” 
– S. Abeyratne

Therefore we urge the government provide us with some relief

“Some of our houses have been damaged and it is very unsafe for us to move back to the places we lived previously. Therefore we urge the government to provide us with some relief as we fear for our lives now.”
 – Vithanage Kusumawathi



I only heard the noise

I only heard the noise and I knew that there was something going on. Later on we were asked to evacuate and then we came to this Church.” 
– W. Ajith


We are left with our clothes and we don’t have anything to eat

When this incident happened I saw people running for their lives towards the Hanwella town. The people in our neighbouring houses too left their houses and sought shelter at the Navagamuwa devalaya. Yesterday morning we found out that we couldn’t go towards the camp because there was a road block. Now I am staying at the church. We are left with our clothes and we don’t have anything to eat. ” – H. Sanjeewa, Ranaviru gammanaya, Salawa

Now there are thieves everywhere

Around 5.30 p.m. on Sunday I heard deafening noises from the Army camp. Now there are thieves trying to loot household appliances. Initially we were informed that there was an ammunition storage close by but we were never told that it was unsafe.” 
– A. Lakshika




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