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Amateur Radio Provides Communication Link Following Sri Lanka Flooding


Members of the Radio Society of Sri Lanka (RSSL) responded to an urgent call for help in the wake of torrential monsoon rainfall in southwestern Sri Lanka on May 28 that caused flooding and landslides. The Road Development Authority (RDA) contacted RSSL President Jaliya Lokeshwara, 4S7JL, seeking communication help from radio amateurs. The RSSL reports that emergency communication was needed to link remote Kalawana, one of the worst hit areas, and Ratnapura. All communication had failed due to heavy flooding, landslides, and damage to the telecommunications infrastructure.

The RDA declared roads were impassable. Only air rescue by the Sri Lanka Air Force helicopters was possible, and the lack of communication support made that task even more difficult. A plan was quickly put into place to airlift four radio amateurs from the capital, Colombo, to both affected locations to form a communications link.

Jaliya Lokeshwara, 4S7JL, and Nadika Hapuarachchi, 4S6NCH, were the first ready to go. A second team consisted of Victor Goonetilleke, 4S7VK, and Dimuthu Wickramasinghe, 4S7DZ.

“We knew we could do it, we were self-sufficient and willing to rough it out,” Goonetilleke said. “It was a hard task, but within 30 minutes of landing the high frequency link was established.” They used 40 and 75 meters as well as 2 meters. He said they spent 2 days coordinating rescue flights, the movement of patients from Kalawana hospital to Ratnapura, and food drops.

The emergency link remained in place until mobile phone service was restored and roadways cleared. “We are happy we could win the day for simple high frequency radio,” Goonetilleke said.

The disaster recovery continues. Nearly 180 people died, and thousands were displaced by the weather disaster. — Thanks to Jim Linton, VK3PC, Chairman IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee, with Jayu S. Bhide, VU2JAU, National Coordinator for Disaster Communication in India (ARSI), and Victor Goonetilleke, 4S7VK