Sri Lanka mine fears as floods recede

January 16, 2011 (AFP) – Unexploded mines planted during Sri Lanka’s Tamil separatist war may have shifted during recent floods, officials said Sunday, as residents started to return to their badly-damaged homes and farms. More than one million people were initially displaced in the flooding, with the east of the island worst affected by a week of unusually heavy monsoon rains.

The government’s disaster management centre in Colombo said 38 people were confirmed dead with another four missing, as water levels dropped in some areas and residents ventured back home to survey the devastation.

“Floods and receding waters may unearth mines and explosive remnants of war and carry explosives from contaminated areas into areas thought to be safe,” the United Nations said in a situation report.

It warned that local authorities had advised residents and aid workers to keep alert for shifted mines, and added that mine clearance agencies were deciding whether areas needed to be re-surveyed after the flooding.

Years of fierce fighting in the east of the island ended in July 2007 and the army says it has cleared the vast majority of mines from the area, though no exact figures are available.

“There is a possibili