Torrential rain in Sri Lanka kills 11

COLOMBO Sun Feb 6, 2011 10:36am EST

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COLOMBO (Reuters) - Heavy rain triggered flooding in Sri Lanka that killed at least 11 people and is threatening up to 90 percent of the staple rice crop, heightening concern about supply shocks and inflation, officials said on Sunday.

Heavy monsoon rain caused flooding across the Eastern, Northern and North Central provinces for the second time in less than a month. More than 250,000 people have been forced into temporary shelters by this latest inundation.

"A large amount is destroyed. More than 90 percent of the crop will be destroyed this time, " Agriculture Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene told Reuters, referring to the rice crop.

"There is no other option than replanting."

Sri Lanka cultivates 570,000 hectares (1.4 million acres) of paddy twice a year, and another 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) has been added in the former war zone in the Northern and Eastern provinces, the government says.

January's floods killed more than 40 people and forced as many as 325,000 from their homes and the Agriculture Ministry had said that at least 21 percent of the rice crop was destroyed.

Sri Lanka has maintained low inflation since May 2009, when a three-decade war with Tamil Tiger separatists ended, mainly because of higher food supplies coming from the Northern and Eastern Provinces where fighting took place.

Flooding and displacements are common in Sri Lanka, where a southern monsoon batters the island between May and September, and a northeastern monsoon runs from December to February.

(Editing by Bryson Hull and Robert Birsel)

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