Floods hit harvest festival in Sri Lanka former war zone inundated

BATTICALOA, January 15, 2011 (AFP) – Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils would normally celebrate their annual harvest festival Saturday, but instead they are struggling to survive the worst flooding in living memory. With a handful of rice and a couple of incense sticks, Sadairani Kumar is keen to mark the festival of Thaipongal, popular among the Hindu ethnic Tamil community who offer thanks to the sun god for a bountiful harvest.

But this year, floods have washed out crops, swamping agricultural land in the country’s rice-growing east and forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes — Kumar’s family among them — leaving them with little to celebrate.

“It’s almost like a curse, don’t you think?” Kumar, 47, told AFP as she arranged her meagre offerings on a plastic cup she will take to the Hindu temple opposite the welfare camp for flood-displaced people.

“First the war, then the tsunami, then the war, and now this. God has cursed us this year,” she said, shaking her head.

Batticaloa saw heavy fighting between troops and Tamil Tiger rebels before security forces crushed the guerrillas in May 2009, ending a 37-year ethnic conflict. It was also hit by the 2004 Asian tsunami that killed 31,000 in