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Our man in NTU, Raymond, went over to Sri Lanka to check on the progress of post-Tsunami rebuilding efforts. Hereâ€™s his story, along with some pictures he took â€¦ – julian
Itâ€™s been eight months since the 26th December tsunami disaster and stories from the affected areas have slowed to a trickle. However, when the stories of destruction and suffering stop, does it mean that the worst is over and that life in the affected areas are back to normal?
I was in Sri Lanka from June 28 to July 3 for the first of two school-sponsored study trips to the socialist republic. The goal of the trips is to produce stories on the post-tsunami reconstruction process for various media.
The following is a personal account of what I saw from day four to seven when we were at the east coast of Sri Lanka, which together with the northeast coast, was worst hit by the disaster.
July 1, 2005, Friday
11am, Kattankudy, Batticaloa
We picked up our four interpreters in the morning as the people from where we were heading spoke mainly Tamil. The first affected area we visited was the beach of Kattankudy in Batticaloa. Despite it was more than six months after the disaster, the sight of the destruction still awed me nonetheless. It was a hot day, probably about 38 degrees Celsius, with nary a cloud in the sky. This weather is typical in the East for this time of the year when the dry season starts to set in. The ocean was a lovely light blue, its beauty was an odd backdrop for the expanse of rubble around us â€“ scarred earth, broken roads, flattened buildings. It was hard to imagine the beachfront lined with fishermenâ€™s huts, which we were told was the way things were. Now there is just the vastness of sand.
2pm, Navalady, Batticaloa
There was a large crowd gathered here, as though a meeting would be taking place. However, it was a communal lunch where food was being given out to people who had been working to clear the debris in the area under one of those NGO (Non-Government Organization) cash-for-work programmes. The people were paid 300 to 400 Sri Lankan rupees (something like eight Singapore dollars) a day. Going by the standard of living in Colombo where it is only slightly cheaper than Singapore, thatâ€™s not a lot to get by.
Lunch was being given as a treat today as it was the last day of the debris-clearing work. Which begs the question: Whereâ€™s the money going to come from now?
Half a year later, still, tragedies of losing close family continue. Displays of the bodily scars that remind of the injuries sustained continue. Questions of what the future would bring continue. And here, I heard my first complaint about how the NGOs were misguided in their work, unable to find out who the needy were and unable to distribute aid fairly.
I spoke with a man, Sinacheh Antony, who lost a wife and two children to the waves. He said: â€œSuch a disaster should not come again, not only to this country but to the whole world.â€
When I ran into him again later, we were invited to sit with his family and he treated my friends and I to freshly plucked coconuts. It was great hospitality â€“ they were generous despite their plight. I also got to see his two children who survived â€“ two young daughters, Merina and Medona.
July 2, 2005, Saturday
We reached Arugam Bay late morning. The bay was one of the top ten surfing destinations of the world and a popular tourist destination on the East coast. The first thought that struck me about the place – shirtless Caucasians with surfboards milling about. In the distance, people were frolicking in the waters. The whole place had a holiday feel to it, that is, if you could forget the ubiquitous skeletons of buildings and rubble piles characteristic of the East coast. The good thing though, was that tourists were back. There was even a surfing competition here a few days back, organised by the British Surfing Association.
I visited a German guy, Fred, at his hotel, the Siam View Hotel. Fred had been in Sri Lanka for close to 30 years, and he was angry at the NGOs, calling them a waste of money. Coming from a man who once hosted an NGO it was a startling accusation.
According to Fred, the NGOs have not been consulting with the locals on what the latter need. He recounted an incident where a NGO worker, once took a big detour when he saw Fred coming out of his hotel, just to avoid running into Fred. In a place where getting electricity was a problem, Fred said the NGOs were giving out things like fridges and air conditioners, when what were more urgently needed were power generators. Then there were the temporary shelters that did not take into account the hot local climate. Fred said he had taken the temperature inside one of them â€“ it was 126 degrees Fahrenheit. In degree Celsius, thatâ€™s 52. Either way, it reads: Very hot! Fred pointed us to a shelter that had a zinc roof â€“ I gathered it was the metal roof that caused the inside of the shelter to heat up so much.
We saw several types of shelters, each with a different combination of materials like wood, zinc, thatched leaves and clay. All had something in common: They were small â€“ one-room structures that were little more than 4m by 3m in size. Itâ€™s a squeeze for any family.
Later, we had our lunch at a restaurant called The Fishing Net. When we were done, we gathered around the restaurant owner, Ajith, as he recounted his experiences to us. Midway through, tears came to his eyes, and he told us that we were the first group to talk with him about what he has been through. There are probably many like him who, besides food and shelter, needs also a listening ear. Itâ€™s tough: You canâ€™t drop a listening ear in the donation box at McDonaldâ€™s, or pack it in a relief supply container to be airlifted there. Perhaps that was one reason why all the people I encountered were so forthcoming with their stories. And why large groups of locals gathered every time we spoke to anyone. Perhaps it was more than the novelty of seeing yellow-skinned oddities. Or perhaps they thought we could help make their lives betterâ€¦
Carolyn Fry finds that surfing is helping one Sri Lankan resort to get back on its feet after the tsunami
Tuesday August 2, 2005
Alan Stokes takes on the surf at Arugam Bay. Photograph: Carolyn Fry
On a sweeping stretch of cinnamon sand, a crowd turned its eyes to the rolling ocean surf. Local families, holiday-makers and a throng of photographers, film-makers and journalists were gathering to see the 2005 Champion of Champions surf contest in Arugam Bay, south-east Sri Lanka.
As a new day’s sun burned the sand through the fronds of coconut palms, surfers launched themselves into the water to ride the swell in a ballet of curving turns, speeding glides and twists of spray. The Boxing Day tsunami ripped through this sleepy beachside village, but the Indian Ocean’s barrelling waves are helping the community get back on its feet.
The legendary ‘right-handers’ of Arugam Bay have long attracted travelling wave-riders. During the country’s 20-year civil war, a dedicated group of Australian surfers regularly risked being bombed, or shot in cross-fire during violent battles between Tamil Tigers and the army. With the end of the conflict in 2002, more adventurers started to make the 10-hour journey along narrow, pitted roads to the famed beach.
Last year, when the British Professional Surfing Association (BPSA) held the first ever Champions surfing competition in the area it seemed things were finally looking up for this dusty, laid-back cluster of low-rise hotels, palm-roofed cabanas and fishermen’s shacks.
A message posted on the Siam View Hotel’s website at Christmas said: “The 2004 season has been the best the bay has ever seen. Nothing – not even another civil war – can stop the bay’s progress now.”
Hours later, the first of eight waves struck, sucking a metre of sand from the base of palms on Arugam Point, plucking cabanas and their inhabitants from the sand and smashing a thickening cargo of debris through the windows of the buses on the main street.
Simon, owner of the unfortunately named Tsunami Hotel, was managing the Siam View that night. He awoke to find himself underwater with his leg trapped. After breaking his ankle to free himself he was swept through several dwellings by the murky, diesel-tainted current before managing to grasp hold of some building blocks. This stopped Simon being swept out to sea as the water receded back to the horizon. Today, his faded superman tattoo has been supplemented by a fresh turquoise inking of a tsunami, along with the date he survived against all odds.
Following the tsunami, the organisers of the surfing contest were in two minds as to whether it should go ahead this year. A third of Arugam Bay’s 3,000 inhabitants had been killed in the disaster, money pledged by charities was slow in reaching the village and the bridge carrying the main road into Arugam Bay had been breached by the waves, cutting the community off for a short period.
However, when the bridge reopened in April the organisers decided the competition should take place. They felt that bringing 100 people into the village would serve as an impetus to get hotels rebuilt as soon as possible as well as injecting much-needed cash into the local economy.
“Everyone worked very, very hard to put it in place,” said Ralph Pereira, managing director of Travel and Tours Anywhere, which developed the contest in conjunction with Sri Lankan Airlines and the BPSA. “We didn’t know for sure that it would go ahead or whether there would be sufficient hotel rooms until six weeks beforehand.”
Guesthouse owners had certainly been hurrying to rebuild and reopen rooms damaged by the tsunami. At Hideaway Guesthouse, where I was staying, the front part of the garden was still a building site. But the main building, with its colonial tea plantation feel was homely and clean, with plump pink and orange cushions brightening rattan chairs.
Before the tsunami, surfing had been a mainstay of the tourism economy right around Sri Lanka’s southern coastline. The island’s south-west has the best waves from November to April, the south-east from May to September.
When Arugam Bay’s right-handers tailed off with the onset of the monsoon, surfers simply headed west to Hikkaduwa, where plentiful hotels and beach villas stood among lush gardens of banana and bourganvillia.
Recreating this surfers’ paradise in the wake of the tsunami has not been easy; with compensation payments from the government yet to materialise, most tourism enterprises have had to rely on their own funds to rebuild their businesses.
“We lost all our watersports equipment,” explained Thilak Weerasinghe, managing director of Lanka Sportreizen. “I didn’t get a cent, but luckily we had built up the business and can afford to rebuild.”
The Travel Foundation and Association of Independent Tour Operators (Aito) are working with the Sri Lankan government, local communities and environmental groups to help people affected by the tsunami regain their livelihoods by developing responsible tourism initiatives.
A number of projects have been earmarked for assistance, including a plan to create a sustainable fishing village. Visitors will see fish being brought to shore and sold, enabling fishermen to benefit from tourism while maintaining their traditional role in society.
Another scheme aims to revegetate land affected by the tsunami, using native plant species. This will include research into using mangroves for coastal protection. Funding for the projects will come from money already pledged by Aito members and donations from customers.
Back in Arugam Bay, there are plans to use money raised by the UK surfing fraternity to build a community surf foundation. Tsunami Surf Relief UK (TSRUK) has so far raised Â£30,000 through charity auctions and events and has allocated a third of this to building a new surf centre. As well as being a focal point where local surfers can meet, the foundation will help generate cash by offering board hire and surfing lessons to visiting tourists.
“We felt the community would benefit from having a centre offering surf-board hire and perhaps swimming lessons and life-guarding,” explained Phil Williams, national director of Christian Surfers UK and a trustee of TSRUK. “The break at Arugam Point is world famous for its waves and surfers from around the world go specifically to that area. In the three or four years after the ceasefire and before the tsunami, more and more surfers were coming to A-Bay; it was a much more prosperous place than before they came.”
As the surfing contest hotted up there was something of a party atmosphere on the beach. Dozens of coloured flags rippled in the tropical wind along the path to Arugam Point where glassy turquoise waves curled invitingly around the reef.
Judges assessed surfers on their turns, style and risk-taking, while waiting competitors nervously flexed their muscles, waxed their boards and contemplated their chances of winning the Â£2,000 prize money.
For the Sri Lankan surfers, many of whom lost friends and family in the tsunami, preparing for the contest helped them overcome their fear of the ocean. As each entered the water, the 100 or so villagers seated beneath the palm trees lining the shore cheered and whistled their support.
“The contest has been hugely important for morale after the tsunami,” said Phil Williams. “It’s sent out the message that, while Arugam Bay isn’t quite yet open for business as usual, it’s back on the tourist trail.”
Way to go
Getting there: Sri Lankan Airlines (020-8538 2001), offers 11 flights a week from Heathrow to Colombo. Fares start at Â£450 return plus taxes
Where to stay: Travel and Tours Anywhere Ltd (0208 8136622) offers surfing holidays to Arugam Bay and Hikkaduwa. A 15-day holiday to Arugam Bay including flights, transfers and B&B accommodation in a guest house costs from Â£699pp. 14 days in Hikkaduwa costs from Â£599pp. Hire of boards and surfing lessons can be arranged
When to go: The waves at Arugam Bay are best between May and September during the dry season. During the off-season, Sri Lanka’s main surf spot on the south-west coast, Hikkaduwa, has good waves
Further information: Sri Lanka Tourist Board (020-7930 2627), arugambay.com’
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In Sri Lanka, a Frustrating Limbo
Rules Leave Tsunami Survivors Unable to Rebuild Lives
By John Lancaster
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, March 8, 2005; Page A01
ARUGAM BAY, Sri Lanka – More than two months after the tsunami that killed his wife and two young children, A.L.M. Thaseem rarely leaves his chair. But it is not despair that traps him in his heavily damaged home, listlessly scanning newspapers in the heat. It is simply that he has nothing else to do.
He canâ€˜t repair his house because of uncertainty surrounding new government rules meant to discourage people from living near the sea. The same goes for the small guesthouse he owned with his two brothers. And the government has yet to fulfill its promises to fix the pair of outrigger canoes that once allowed him to earn a good living as a fisherman — depriving him of income and, perhaps more important, distraction.
A.L.M. Thaseem, who lost his family and boats in the Dec. 26 tsunami, stands in the rubble of his guesthouse. (John Lancaster — The Washington Post)
“Before the tsunami, I was very busy,” said Thaseem, 40, an easygoing man in a plaid sarong and flip-flops. “Now Iâ€˜m very lazy.”
Thaseemâ€˜s malaise is emblematic of a wider challenge confronting Sri Lanka. While the country is awash in international aid money and supplies, bureaucratic inefficiency and confusion — especially surrounding the new land-use rules — are hindering efforts to rebuild homes and livelihoods that were shattered by the Dec. 26 tsunami, trapping survivors in a limbo of frustration and inactivity.
Aid officials say that until the government clarifies the new rules, which have stirred controversy by favoring hotel owners over traditional coastal residents, they cannot begin rebuilding or reconstructing permanent homes as an essential first step in helping victims put the catastrophe behind them. The tsunami killed about 31,000 people in Sri Lanka, an island nation of about 20 million off the southern tip of India.
The complexities of the reconstruction effort are plainly evident in Arugam Bay, a once-thriving beach community of nearly 4,000 people — most from Sri Lankaâ€˜s Muslim minority — about 135 miles east of Colombo.
Before the tsunami, most people here earned their living from fishing or tourism, which had boomed in the three years since the government signed a cease-fire with rebels from the countryâ€˜s ethnic Tamil minority. Small hotels and guesthouses sprouted amid palm trees next to the azure waters of Arugam Bay, a playground for bottlenose dolphins and surfers from around the world.
Those days are a memory now. The tsunami killed about 250 people in the area, including 11 foreign visitors. It reduced most tourist businesses to rubble and destroyed or damaged nearly all of the communityâ€˜s several hundred fishing boats. Aid officials estimate that as many as one-third of Arugam Bayâ€˜s residents are living in refugee camps; many others are staying in tents or temporary shacks erected on the foundations of their former homes.
A Once-Idyllic Lifestyle
Thaseem, the fisherman and guesthouse owner, is in many ways typical of those who lost everything and are trying to restart their lives.
He is a high school graduate and native of Arugam Bay who followed his father into the fishing trade and married a local woman, Camila, with whom he had a daughter and son. He speaks passable English that he learned from the tourists who began visiting the town in the late 1970s, before the civil war.
Thaseem earned a good living as the owner and operator of two 26-foot-long outrigger canoes, called mahadals, which are paddled by eight men and used to catch tuna and other fish with long nylon nets. He also had benefited from the tourist boom. After the cease-fire was signed in early 2002, Thaseem joined his brothers — schoolteachers from the nearby town of Pottuvil — in building the Paradise Sand Beach Hotel, a lavender-painted 10-room guesthouse on family property overlooking the bay. He lived a few hundred yards down the beach in a comfortable brick-and-concrete house equipped with a television set, videocassette player and a new refrigerator.
Thaseem said he doted on his wife and two children. Fatima, 7, was a top student who loved to read books in her native Tamil and amused herself by drawing pictures of mangoes and coconut palms with colored pencils. Mohammed, 4, was rarely without his toy cricket bat and dreamed of becoming a doctor.
On the night before the tsunami, Thaseem joined his family for a jovial meal of fish curry and rice, then bade them a casual goodnight. It was his turn to cook dinner at the hotel, which was filled with Italian guests, and he planned to spend the night at his sisterâ€˜s house, which was next door.
It was the last time he saw his wife and children alive.
Searching in Vain
Thaseem was at the hotel when the tsunami struck the next morning. Along with his guests, he was able to outrun the waves and find refuge on higher ground. He assumed his wife and children had done the same. They had not.
As Thaseem later pieced together the story from witnesses, Camila had scooped up their small son and fled their home at the first shouted warnings, but the ocean overtook them. Fatima, who had been in Koran class at the local mosque, might have saved herself had she run in the right direction. But instinctively she ran toward home and was swept away by the current. She did not know how to swim.
As soon as the waters receded, Thaseem set off in search of his family. Weeping and crying “Allah, Allah,” he found his wifeâ€˜s body late that afternoon. She was still clad in her green nightdress. The childrenâ€˜s bodies were found a few days later.
The tsunami partially collapsed the floor of his house, cracked several walls and swept away most of Thaseemâ€˜s possessions. It also deprived him of his livelihood, hurling his fishing boats into the jungle and wrecking the guesthouse.
Thaseem was never in danger of succumbing to starvation or disease. Thanks to a flood of international aid, he gets regular deliveries of rice, lentils and flour. Drinking water is available from a nearby tank that is replenished daily. Electricity has been more or less restored. Indian army troops are busy repairing the steel bridge that spans the lagoon separating the town from Pottuvil, with its banks and government offices.
As for his mental state, Thaseem shows no obvious signs of trauma. A cheerful person by nature, he punctuates his conversation with laughter and frequent smiles, and he still seems to take pleasure in the company of friends and members of his extended family, many of whom live nearby.
But sometimes, Thaseem said, his mind fills with images of his lost wife and children, and he cannot stop the tears. As a practicing if not especially strict Muslim, he used to pray at the mosque three or four times a day, he said. Now he can barely muster the energy to go once a week, for midday prayers on Friday.
“Now Iâ€˜m not so good feeling,” he explained. “Maybe when Iâ€˜m getting better I go.”
Web of Red Tape
One obvious impediment to Thaseemâ€˜s recovery is uncertainty over what the future holds. A big part of that uncertainty stems from the governmentâ€˜s new land-use rules, which officials say are aimed at preventing deaths in the event of another tsunami. The rules ban most construction within 200 meters, or about 218 yards, of the high-tide line on the east coast — where Thaseem lives — and 100 meters on the west coast.
The regulations make an exception for partially damaged homes as well as for some tourist businesses, which are deemed critical to the economy. But until the policy is clarified, and the government finishes a plan for shifting thousands of coastal residents to higher ground, local officials wonâ€˜t let Thaseem and his neighbors start rebuilding their homes and businesses. Aid groups are similarly constrained, despite a surfeit of building materials and money that could finance rebuilding right away.
“Itâ€˜s slowing it down significantly,” said Ian Schneider, the director in Sri Lanka for Oregon-based Mercy Corps. A lot of aid groups, he added, are “running around looking for something to do and having a hard time finding it right now.”
The new rules have also sparked charges that the government is favoring wealthy businessmen over fishermen and other traditional coastal dwellers, many of whom are reluctant to abandon familiar homes and lands, even after living through the terror of the tsunami. Just steps from the rubble of Thaseemâ€˜s guesthouse, for example, construction workers were racing last month to finish an 18-room beachfront hotel that had been started before the tsunami. One of the main partners in the project is a politically well-connected doctor from Colombo.
“Heâ€˜s a rich man,” Thaseem said. “Maybe he has another law.”
Government officials say that exceptions for tourist businesses will be made on a case-by-case basis. “We have to give some kind of concessions to the tourism development, otherwise the economy will be affected very badly,” said Thosapala Hewage, secretary of the Ministry of Urban Development and Water Resources, which oversees coastal planning. “You cannot compare a hotel to a house of an ordinary person. . . . We cannot encourage people to settle down in those areas.”
Thaseemâ€˜s other big challenge is getting back to work. Government officials have not followed through yet on promises to replace or repair fishing boats, as they have in many other parts of Sri Lanka. Thaseem and other fishermen have presented lists of their equipment needs to the government fisheries inspector in Pottuvil, who dutifully sent them off to Colombo. So far the fishermen have heard nothing. “Itâ€˜s very slow,” acknowledged the fisheries inspector, Ibrahim Udumalebbe. “Iâ€˜m getting worried because the fishermen are helpless now.”
In the absence of government help, Thaseem said, he has presented the same list to at least a half-dozen aid groups, so far without results.
Lyn Robinson, who is working for Mercy Corps in Arugam Bay, said the group was evaluating a request from Thaseem and five other canoe owners for help in repairing their damaged boats and nets. She said the effort had been complicated by a dearth of skilled carpenters and fiberglass experts, but expressed hope that Mercy Corps would soon be able to meet the fishermenâ€˜s needs, perhaps in collaboration with two Britons visiting the area on a private aid mission.
In the meantime, Thaseem will be waiting in his chair. “My property and my family, everything finished now,” he said matter-of-factly. “I am alone now.”
Reconstruction and invisible scars
From Till Mayer for CNN
Wednesday, January 26, 2005 Posted: 0948 GMT (1748 HKT)
POTTUVIL, Sri Lanka (CNN) — Till Mayer is a journalist working for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Galle, Sri Lanka. He is writing about his experiences as part of the relief effort for CNN.com.
Tuesday, January 25
The crane is straining. The massive fishing boat swings in the air hanging meters above on steel ropes, between golden beach and blue sky.
The tsunami waves tossed heavy wooden vessels ashore on December 26 like paper boats. Now they lie scattered over the whole beach, stranded between palms.
Many of them are only wrecks. Broken wood, where rocks shattered the heavy planks. Maybe one day some of the boats can sail again. The crane starts with the clearing up.
I return to the car and continue the journey south towards Galle. To the left and right are remnants of the disaster.
Sometimes all that remains are heaps of stones, reminding me of the fishing huts that stood there one month ago. The rubble passes me by.
But there is not only destruction to see. Everywhere along the coasts of Sri Lanka people are still clearing up and sometimes even beginning to rebuild.
Fires burn beside the roads: mattresses, splintered timber and broken furniture transformed into ash.
From the debris the tsunami victims collect what is useful for reconstruction: roofing tiles, stones and corrugated sheet. Neighbors help each other.
And the aid workers of the Red Cross lend a hand. At the next stop the sun already beats down from the sky. Sweat runs down of the faces of 25 Red Cross volunteers from Bentota.
“Straight after the tsunami disaster I joined the Red Cross. Now I clear up the rubble with my friends”, says a 23-year old.
In the background a wrecked house rises up into the sky. The tidal wave shattered the timber roofs like matches, tearing away furniture, windows, doors, everything.
Red Cross workers, many young, push squeaking wheelbarrows along the affected coastline.
They provide first aid, clean salted wells, distribute humanitarian goods or transport clean drinking water.
The disaster has tapped into the humanitarian spirit and the number of Red Cross volunteers has increased, a fact Vpali Sirimanne is proud of.
Sirimanne is the honorary Red Cross chairman of the district of Bentota. He used to work as a full-time diving instructor. Before the tsunami he ran his own equipment and boat rental business. The wave destroyed everything.
Not far away a Red Cross truck stands next to the road delivering water. The pump is roaring, filling up a black plastic tank. The village inhabitants line up with cans and buckets. Clean drinking water is essential to avoid the outbreak of diseases and epidemics.
I think of my German Red Cross friends in Pottuvil. They prepare 120,000 liters of drinking water daily, supplying camps for the homeless. Then there are the two basic health care centers run by the Finnish and French Red Cross societies.
The tsunami has brought me back in touch with colleagues from other missions. Dieter Mathes is the German Red Cross ERU team leader, an aid-worker with decades of experience, and Konrad Kerpa, whom I met last year in Bam.
Then an enormous earthquake had transformed the entire Iranian city within seconds into a sea of rubble. Both disasters happened on December 26.
The city of Pottuvil looms — a particularly sad chapter in my Sri Lanka mission. The former paradise for surfers is now only a field of rubble. Thousands died here. I will never forget the sight of numerous corpses floating in the water. It was terrible.
The bridge between the city center and the former tourist area was destroyed. The German Red Cross water team managed to get water over the destroyed bridge using a 728-meter hose.
The German Red Cross is also operating a field hospital in the north of the country and is one of several National Societies working in close cooperation with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Sri Lanka Red Cross.
My journey continues. The road is hopelessly overcrowded. A railway track runs parallel to the road. Or rather, what remains of it. The waves bent the rails like play dough. Nearby an iron rail hangs over a palm trunk.
I come to the town of Tellwatte. The place looks like it a bomb site. What’s left of the train station stands amid the rubble. Walls have been partly washed away. Villagers set up a Buddha statue on a broken roof, lost between the remains.
Behind the station a reddish-brown train appears. Over 1,400 people died when the wave hit the wagons, tearing the carriages apart. Heavy equipment has set the death train again on its track.
The bodies of the dead have been recovered, but still there are sad reminders. In front of the wagon lies a small doll, its legs ripped off. Its painted eyes staring into the sky. The girl, who played with the doll, is dead. The tsunami disaster claimed nearly 40,000 lives in Sri Lanka. An incomprehensible number.
Red Cross and Red Crescent planes and ships have brought tons of goods to the vulnerable. The first new houses are appearing while others are being reconstructed.
“The acute emergency phase is over, reconstruction can start”, says Axel Pawolek, the FACT team leader with the Federation.
One month after, it is still hard for me to comprehend the extent of the disaster.
If it is difficult for me as a visitor to this country, imagine how hard it is for the innocent, bewildered victims such as the children. In a few minutes the world as they knew it, was washed away. Beloved ones will never return again.
There are wounds you cannot see, and they will take a long time to heal. That is a further challenge for the Red Cross/Red Crescent.
Monday, January 10
The clean-up operation has begun in Pottuvil.
POTTUVIL, Sri Lanka – The advertising sign is lost in amid the rubble. On it is written “Tsunami Hotel” in big letters, and a giant wave is breaking over it.
A favorite place to stay for surfers from all over the world — until December 26.
Now the sign rises up in the sky like a monument. In a cruel irony, the tsunami has taken the hotel named after it.
Mohammed Ali passes by the remnants with slow steps. The disaster has made an old man out of the 52-year-old. The wave washed away his house like a sand castle, his brother-in-law will never return with his boat from fishing.
Heavy bruises cover the body of the fisherman. Every breath hurts. Deep inside there is a stronger pain. It will stay for a long time. Mohammed Ali knows it too well.
Along both sides of the road there are long rows of destroyed houses. Not long ago they were guest houses, small pubs and shops. Pottuvil was well known as a paradise for holiday makers. For Mohammed Ali that now seems a lifetime away.
“Sometimes I do not know what I should believe. That this sea of rubble is reality? Or that I am just dreaming? When I wake up, will I see again the bustling city with all the tourists and the owners of the restaurants, who are buying my fresh fish”, he says softly.
The leg of a plastic doll juts out of the rubbish that was swept up by the tsunami. Next to it lies a baby bottle. On a wall nearby a painting depicts a surfer riding a wave.
Mohammed tries to walk faster. He tries to avoid thinking about something which he is unable to find an explanation for.
A young man waves from a roof of a destroyed house. “Is everything okay with you?” he asks.
Mohammed Ali nods and the man continues to throw down the roof tiles that are still unbroken to another man who catches them cheerfully.
In Pottuvil like everywhere else alongside the coast of Sri Lanka people start to clean up, sometimes even to rebuild.
Marie Mauret, a psychologist with the French Red Cross basic health care unit in Pottuvil has been impressed with the coping mechanisms of the local community.
“People are really brave here. And there are so many volunteers to help us. Despite the sorrow everybody is working hard to cope with these terrible times. People are proactive. They do not wait until someone comes to help them, she says.
The Red Cross has erected a basic health care post in a hotel. Plastic sheeting covers holes in walls damaged by the tsunami.
Mohammed Ali takes a seat on a rickety chair. Like so many others he is waiting patiently to get treated. Word of the Red Cross health post is being spread by word of mouth. An island of safety in the sea of rubble.
The Red Cross mobile medical team has also been established to cover scattered temporary shelters south of Pottuvil to provide services to patients who would find it difficult to get to the center.
The psychological impact on the community is something that Mauret says cannot be stressed enough.
“Many of them are deeply traumatized. It is especially hard for children to understand what happened”, she says.
Children are finding it difficult to sleep and their rest is blighted by nightmares. They react by crying after the unbelievable things that happened to them and their families, like the girl who is being treated by a doctor at the center. The Red Cross-worker smiles at the girl, speaking calming words.
Where the town of Pottuvil ends, a green paradise stretches as far as the eye can see. In the sunlight lush green rice fields are shining. Between them palms and huge trees grow.
A road winds through the landscape and next to it are a couple of big blue water tanks. Here the German Red Cross emergency response unit is purifying up to 120,000 liters of drinking water a day for more than 15,000 affected people.
“Without our friends from the Sri Lanka Red Cross we would have had great trouble becoming operational. With a group of young Red Cross members we have been able to install everything fast. It is a good feeling to work in a strong team together with our local colleagues and friends”, says Dieter Matthes, the experienced German Red Cross-team leader.
Then he trudges through the mud to the water pump. Heavy rain is affecting the region. Many centers for displaced people are situated around the water-purification unit. Some of the fisher families who escaped from the beach found shelter here and receive water from the unit.
A few kilometers away there are the big white tents of the basic health care center established by the Finnish Red Cross. The unit also makes home visits and together with the center, providing vital health services to affected communities.
“In addition to delivering basic health care, we are promoting hygiene and health education which is vitally important for people who have lost everything”, says Red Cross doctor Ilkka Mikkonen.
Sunday January 2, 2005
GALLE, Sri Lanka — The waves are beating on gray stones, hiding the rubble in the sand. Between broken bricks and mud sticks a silver-colored lady’s shoe. Behind it lies a piece of bent metal.
M.K. Ahula kicks a scratched teapot with his toe. Then he pushes his bicycle over the devastated area between the beach and the road, passing the remnants of a wall and a broken palm tree. This is all that is left of his house.
The wave washed everything away on December 26, together with seven members of his family, among them two babies, his mother and his eldest son.
It is hard to recover from such a disaster. Ahula gives the sea a quick glance. “I hate it,” the 34-year-old fisherman says softly.
He used to enjoy sailing in his boat, far out into the sea until the beach was only a tiny small yellow strip with the palm trees as a gray background. At night, he would see the lights of his hometown, Galle, reflected in the water.
Now, the sea has taken his boat and nets. If he still had his wooden craft, he would sell it for sure.
Ahula pushes his pedals. The rainy season has created large puddles in the bumpy street. Water splashes all around. But Ahula does not care about it. To his left and right, the street looks as if it has been bombarded.
The flood took anything that was not attached to the ground with concrete, flushing the rubble through the narrow alleys with terrible violence. Broken wooden beams and bent steel roofs are all that remain of the fishing huts along the coast.
In the center of the city. the old Portuguese fortress rises up against the sea. On the green lawn in front of it, people are gathering around a small lorry. They keep handkerchiefs against their noses and faces. When the breeze stops, the smell is unbearable.
Ahula stands against his bike. The four dead bodies are so heavenly swollen that relatives hardly recognize them. Today he will not find out anything about his three missing relatives.
The Buddhist Mahagoda temple is at a safe distance from the devastating sea. It seems like an idyllic picture for a postcard: Old walls surrounded by lush greenery. High trees protect against sun and rain. In the shadow stands an old Minor Morris.
The temple offers no clues that the city was struck by the tsunami. At first sight. nothing reminds of the death toll — believed to be 140,000 — among them about 30,000 in Sri Lanka alone.
But the harmony of the temple is misleading. Between its walls, 100 people left bereft of everything by the tsunami are looking for shelter.
A mini van rolls through the temple gate, carrying a team of young Red Cross volunteers. The pebbles crunch under their feet. Like so many other volunteers, these youngsters — aged 18 and 25 — are on the road providing first aid treatment. There are 2,500 volunteers on duty, cleaning wells, distributing goods and searching for the missing.
They also try to dispense some hope, to people like L.P. Seteen. The 72-year-old carpenter clutches his umbrella. There is no handle anymore. But it was the only thing he could get a hold on when he was running out of his house.
He describes in a soft voice to Red Cross leader Nandana Wickamanyake how he was able to save his own life.
“Thanks to God nobody of my family got killed. I am so thankful for this,” says the old man to the volunteer.
Meanwhile, some Red Cross volunteers put on bandages and disinfect wounds. Many of the homeless were injured when they escaped the wave.
Wickamanyake is proud of his group. “We have been on duty for days. Everybody is contributing all their energy. We must set an example. Now is the time for everyone to start cleaning up and rebuilding,” explains the 35-year-old.
Gradually, all traces of the destruction in Galle will disappear. In the lush green hills close to the city, the heavy sound of traffic roars among the palms and trees. Heavy Caterpillar machines are digging mass graves.
About 4,000 people have perished in the district of Galle. The last mass graves have already been filled up. Close by, Buddhist monks pray for the victims.
But the grief is touchable and will remain for a long time, long after the damage from the tsunami has been repaired.
Sri Lanka braucht Ã„rzte, Reis und Wasser – aber Sri Lanka braucht auch Leute, die wissen, wer und was gerade wo gebraucht wird
ARUGAM BAY, im Januar. Das Zelt ist leer, die beiden Helfer stehen da in ihren blauen Arztkitteln, die Binden und Pflaster und Ampullen, alles ist bereit, nur die Patienten fehlen. Hans Stechele schÃ¼ttelt den Kopf, er versteht die Welt nicht recht an diesem Morgen. “Das liegt doch daran, dass die Franzosen vom Roten Kreuz in ihrer Station gerade wieder Curry und Reis verteilen”, vermutet er. Er mag kaum etwas Gutes Ã¼ber die franzÃ¶sischen Helfer sagen. “Die sitzen den ganzen Tag herum und machen SchÃ¶nwettermedizin.” Aber, leider, sie haben mehr Patienten, hier in Arugam Bay.
Hans Stechele kommt aus Heilbronn, er ist 32 Jahre alt, Arzt fÃ¼r Kindermedizin, und er hatte sich den Einsatz im Katastrophengebiet, “ehrlich gesagt”, etwas anders vorgestellt. Wenn er allerdings davon erzÃ¤hlt, wie er nach Arugam Bay kam, an diesen verwÃ¼steten Traumstrand im Osten von Sri Lanka, dann ist das alles nicht ganz Ã¼berraschend. Der freiwillige Mitarbeiter einer kleinen Hilfsorganisation aus MÃ¼nchen hat sich vor zwei Wochen zusammen mit einem Freund und einigen Kartons voller Medikamente auf den Weg gemacht, den Flutopfern zu helfen. Nur, dass er Sri Lanka nicht kannte und auch gar nicht wusste, wo und wie er zum Einsatz kommen sollte. “Wir haben im SÃ¼den der Insel gesucht, aber festgestellt, dass es dort nicht an Medizin mangelte.” Sie mussten auch erkennen, dass schon jede Menge anderer Ã„rzte auf der Suche nach Patienten waren. “Sie standen sich regelrecht auf den FÃ¼ÃŸen.”
Irgendwann hÃ¶rten Hans Stechele und sein Freund von Arugam Bay, einem abgelegenen KÃ¼stenort im Osten Sri Lankas. Als sie dort eintrafen, stellten sie jedoch fest, dass sie wieder zu spÃ¤t kamen. Die Rot-Kreuz-Helfer aus Frankreich hatten schon alle schweren FÃ¤lle verarztet. Auf einem Reisfeld, in einem weiÃŸen Zelt, erÃ¶ffneten die Deutschen dennoch ihre Praxis fÃ¼r Kindermedizin. Dort bekamen sie es zwar nicht mit gebrochenen Gliedern, aber mit Husten, Bauchschmerzen und Fieber zu tun, und das sind ja auch Krankheiten. “Normalerweise kommen auch Patienten”, sagt Hans Stechele. Normalerweise.
“Inzwischen ist die Hilfe an der OstkÃ¼ste gesichert, auch der Nachschub an Wasser”, sagt Johannes Schraknepper, ein deutscher Arzt, der nicht weit von Arugam Bay in einem Notlazarett des finnischen Roten Kreuzes arbeitet. Im Osten Sri Lankas sieht man nun FlÃ¼chtlingslager mit weiÃŸen und blauen Zelten. Inzwischen ist auch schweres RÃ¤umgerÃ¤t an vielen Orten eingetroffen, zwei Wochen spÃ¤ter als im stÃ¤rker entwickelten SÃ¼den des Landes. Als dort bereits neue BrÃ¼cken standen, gab es in Arugam Bay nicht einmal militÃ¤rische Hilfe beim Suchen und Bergen der Toten – was mit der Armut im Osten und mit der fehlenden Aufmerksamkeit der Medien zu tun haben kÃ¶nnte.
Jetzt beobachte man eher ein anderes PhÃ¤nomen – hilflose Helfer, sagt der deutsche Arzt Schraknepper. Die Hilfswerke wÃ¼rden oft ohne jede Landeskenntnis handeln, und lÃ¤ngst seien auch die Ã¼blichen RivalitÃ¤ten ausgebrochen. “Manche Helfer kommen an, sind drei Tage da, verteilen Medikamente, die niemand braucht, und sind wieder weg. Andere werden hier hingeschickt, stellen fest, die KÃ¼ste ist mit Hilfe abgedeckt, und streiten sich nun um den Verteilungskuchen.” Die Regierung aber sei mit der Lage vÃ¶llig Ã¼berfordert und werde von der Hilfe fÃ¶rmlich Ã¼berrollt.
Am Strand von Arugam Bay landen den ganzen Tag Ã¼ber Marineboote an. Sie bringen AufrÃ¤umtrupps, junge MÃ¤nner aus Sri Lanka in Shorts mit Spaten und Hacken. Sie wollen die Schule im Ort von Schutt und MÃ¼ll befreien. Sie marschieren durch die tiefen Furchen, die der Tsunami gerissen hat, als er die StraÃŸe im Ort unterspÃ¼lte und die Auffahrt zu einer BrÃ¼cke Ã¼ber den Sund wegriss, die Arugam Bay mit dem Festland verbindet.
Die BrÃ¼cke ragt nun ins Leere, deshalb kann das Dorf zurzeit nur per Boot erreicht werden. Noch immer liegen verkeilte Autos zwischen Betonbrocken und den Resten von Fischerbooten. Die Arbeiter passieren auf ihrem Weg durch das TrÃ¼mmerfeld Zelte der Vereinten Nationen, sie sehen Ãœberlebende, die an provisorischen HÃ¼tten zimmern, und sie sehen all jene jungen EuropÃ¤er und Amerikaner in festen Stiefeln und Tropenwesten, die scheinbar ziellos in die eine oder andere Richtung streben.
“Ich bringe diese vier Ampullen auf die andere Seite der Lagune”, sagt Nick, ein bÃ¤rtiger junger Mann von der amerikanischen WestkÃ¼ste. “Man hat mir gesagt, dass dort die KrÃ¤tze ausgebrochen ist. Und das hier hilft dagegen.” Mit quietschenden Reifen hÃ¤lt ein Jeep, der aus der Gegenrichtung kommt. “Wo ist denn hier das Surfâ€˜n Sun?”, brÃ¼llt ein junger Mann, “wir haben Zement und einen Generator”. Ratlos stehen kanadische Soldaten an diesem Tag an der zerbrochenen BrÃ¼cke.
Arugam Bay liegt in einer Region abseits der TourismusstrÃ¶me. Die Gegend war zwanzig Jahre lang Kampfgebiet. Wie im Norden der Insel haben auch im Osten die tamilischen Rebellen immer wieder groÃŸe Gebiete in ihre Gewalt gebracht, auch in den UrwÃ¤ldern um Arugam Bay. Trotzdem gab es fÃ¼r Reisende einen guten Grund, die Armee-Checkpoints zu Ã¼berwinden, um hierher zu kommen: Nirgends sonst auf Sri Lanka war die Brandung schÃ¶ner. Viele Surfer verbrachten in den GÃ¤stehÃ¤usern ein ganzes Jahr, einige haben sich HÃ¤user gekauft. Vielleicht hat der Ort deshalb jetzt eine besondere Art von Helfern angezogen.
Mit groÃŸen Augen betrachten die Einheimischen das Treiben der jungen AuslÃ¤nder in ihrem Dorf. 5000 Menschen lebten in Arugam Bay, die Flutwelle hat 500 oder 700 mit sich gerissen, auch einige Touristen, im Dorf hat jede Familie Tote zu beklagen. Vorher lebten sie hier vom Fischfang, vom Reisanbau und auch vom Tourismus. Jetzt hocken sie unter den Planen und wissen nicht, was sie tun sollen. Die Nothilfe hat sie erreicht, wenn auch mit VerzÃ¶gerung. “Es gibt genug zu essen, es gibt Medizin”, sagt ein Fischer, der seine Frau und zwei Kinder verloren hat. “Nur das Wasser, das sie uns geben, ist salzig. Man kann es nicht trinken.” Das franzÃ¶sische Rote Kreuz hat in Arugam Bay eine schÃ¶ne Wasseraufbereitungsanlage gebaut, nur kommt das Wasser aus einem Brunnen, der viel zu nah am Meer liegt.
Die Wasseraufbereitungsanlage steht genau dort, wo einmal der Rest des Siam View Hotels stand, einer Pension nicht weit vom Strand. Im Siam View Hotel geht es in diesen Tagen ein wenig zu wie in einer Jugendherberge. An der groÃŸen Tafel Ã¼ber dem Tresen steht, das Essen sei umsonst, “und jeder gibt in die Kasse, was er kann”. Wenn es Abend wird, sitzen sie an den Holztischen, junge Menschen aus Deutschland, Italien und Amerika, Helfer und Idealisten, sie trinken Bier und reden.
Manfred Netzwand-Miller sitzt dann dazwischen. Er ist 54 Jahre alt, Deutsch-EnglÃ¤nder, ein Abenteurer, der viel herumgekommen ist, frÃ¼her mal Offizier der britischen Army war und jetzt Chef des Hotels ist. Nur ein kleiner Teil seines Hauses ist Ã¼brig geblieben, als der Tsunami durch Arugam Bay fegte. Manfred Netzwand-Miller sagt, er versuche vor allem dafÃ¼r zu sorgen, dass die Leute im Ort wieder Hoffnung schÃ¶pfen. “Dass sie sich nicht hÃ¤ngen lassen. Wir zeigen ihnen, wie man weitermacht. Das ist auch ein wichtiger Teil von Nothilfe.”
Netzwand-Miller hat sein Hotel zum Treffpunkt der Helfer gemacht – jener Helfer, deren Einsatz er mit einem gewissen Spott beobachtet. Sein GrundstÃ¼cksnachbar, ein 35 Jahre alter DÃ¤ne, sieht es Ã¤hnlich. Er sagt nur immer wieder “chaotisch” und schÃ¼ttelt den Kopf. “Absolut chaotisch.” Per JÃ¶rgensen hat rotes, kurz geschnittenes Haar, einen rÃ¶tlichen Bart und von der Sonne gerÃ¶tete Haut. Auch er hat einen Generator organisiert und eine Pumpe, er hilft seinen einheimischen Nachbarn, ihre verstopften und mit Meerwasser vergifteten Brunnen zu sÃ¤ubern. “Hier waren Leute von irgendwelchen Hilfsorganisationen, die haben Brunnen gesÃ¤ubert und dann sind sie wieder verschwunden”, sagt er. “Aber niemand hat das Wasser der Brunnen anschlieÃŸend geprÃ¼ft.” JÃ¶rgensen hat nun einen Kontakt zu anderen Helfern hergestellt, die irgendwo im Busch ein Wasserlabor haben sollen. “Aber niemand organisiert hier irgendwas, es gibt nicht die geringste Koordination der Hilfe, vieles wird doppelt gemacht und anderes gar nicht”, sagt Per JÃ¶rgensen.
Das Rote Kreuz immerhin hat zunÃ¤chst Erkundungstrupps in die Notgebiete geschickt, auch in den Osten Sri Lankas, und dann erst MaÃŸnahmen ergriffen. Deutsche Rot-Kreuz-Helfer haben zum Beispiel bei Komari, einem vÃ¶llig zerstÃ¶rten Fischerdorf zwanzig Kilometer von Arugam Bay entfernt, eine Wasseraufbereitungsanlage errichtet, die ihr Wasser aus einem Fluss bezieht. Unweit davon haben finnische Rot-Kreuz-Helfer ihr Feldlazarett auf die grÃ¼ne Wiese gestellt, haben Behandlungszimmer eingerichtet, in denen sie Ã¼ber dreitausend FlÃ¼chtlinge versorgen.
“Wir haben zum GlÃ¼ck bisher nur Fieber, Bronchitis und Durchfall festgestellt”, sagt der finnische Arzt Ukka Mikkonen, der damit rechnet, dass das Hospital etwa ein Jahr betrieben werden muss. Mikkonen weiÃŸ, dass die Leute oft Dinge brauchen, mit denen die Helfer gar nicht gerechnet hatten. Denn viele Menschen hier haben verletzte FÃ¼ÃŸe, weil sie in der Flutwelle ihre Sandalen verloren haben und nun barfuÃŸ gehen mÃ¼ssen. Neue Schuhe kÃ¶nnen sie sich nicht leisten.
In Arugam Bay sind an diesem Tag drei hochrangige Oppositionspolitiker zu Besuch, um sich Ã¼ber die HilfsmaÃŸnahmen zu informieren. Karu Jayasuri, Mitglied der Delegation, war einmal Minister und auch zwei Jahre lang Diplomat in Deutschland. Er sagt: “Wir freuen uns Ã¼ber jede Hilfe, aber es ist klar, dass wir eine bessere Koordination benÃ¶tigen.”
Am Tag darauf berichten die Zeitungen in Colombo, aus England sei ein groÃŸes Flugzeug voll mit Wasserflaschen eingetroffen. Ganz Ã¼berraschend.
Die Reporter Frank Nordhausen, Willi Germund und Pablo Castagnola, die in den vergangenen Wochen in SÃ¼dasien waren, berichten an diesem Donnerstag ab 18 Uhr in einem Leserforum von ihren Erfahrungen. Das Forum findet im Hause des Berliner Verlags am Alexanderplatz, Karl-Liebknecht-StraÃŸe 29, statt. Der Eintritt ist frei.
“Manche Helfer kommen an, sind drei Tage da, verteilen Medikamente, die niemand braucht, und sind wieder weg.”
Ein deutscher Arzt
|Â HomePage||Berliner Zeitung Archiv|
It took them two days to arrive, but Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team landed in Sri Lanka’s capital Saturday, eager and ready to depart for a 200-kilometre journey to Ampara, which was severely devastated on Dec. 26.The 200-member elite military corps is scheduled to head for Ampara, located on the island’s southeast coast, on Monday, bringing with them enough supplies to fill five cargo planes.
That trip over damaged roads is expected to take 12 hours.
Unloading the DART, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Survivors in Ampara eagerly await the team’s arrival and the arrival of desperately needed medicine and water purification units that are capable of cleaning up to 200,000 litres of salty or polluted water a day.While water purification remains DART’s main focus, the team will be essential in providing medical care and in helping rebuilding efforts in a region where complete fishing villages disappeared under water, and where some people lost complete families.
More than 30,000 Sri Lankans died in the earthquake and tsunami disaster two weeks ago and 800,000 were left homeless.
DART, which was greeted at Colombo airport by Federal Health Minister Ujal Dosanjh, says its prepared to face the devastation in Ampara. Some members quietly criticized the Canadian government for delaying the team’s deployment.
“We could have been here earlier but everyone is doing as they’re told and we’re doing it in a timely manner,” said one team member upon arrival in Sri Lanka.
DART’s assignment in Sri Lanka is expected to last six weeks at a cost of $20 million.
see the original article:
SVH Team: Fred & Somlak
More options 01:35 (17 hours ago)
GALLE ROAD, NARIGAMA, HIKKADUWA, SRI LANKA
TSUNAMI STORY 0915 hrs 26 December 2004
The Tsunami hit Sunbeach Hotel at 9.15 on Boxing Day. We had 41 family and friends who were staying at Sunbeach and in other neighbouring hotels â€“ Moonbeam, Golden Sands, Sunilâ€˜s Beach & Casalanka. By that time of day most people would have been at the market in the sea or along the beach. However the night before we had had a wonderful Christmas meal and party that had gone on late so most people were just getting up. Many were in their rooms or in the gardens between the hotel and the beach. Murray was swimming in the sea and his daughter Eve (15) was surfing in front of the hotel. Sharon and Jill were walking some way along the beach.
The height of the wave generated by the Tsunami is determined by the shoreline. Sunbeach benefited from being on a long fairly straight stretch of beach. As the Tsunami approached it appeared that the tide was coming in very fast. It quickly passed the high tide mark and started pulling out sunloungers and deckchairs. At first a few people laughed as they tried to rescue the furniture. Then they started screaming as the water kept coming faster and deeper. The staff and guests raised the alarm.
The following events took place over 60 seconds.
Waiter Chandana and chef Anura ran down the Sunbeach hotel corridor banging on doors to get out the guests and staff. They probably saved many lives. Meanwhile guests already outside having breakfast ran through the garden shouting. We ran along the garden path to the road or out of the hotel rooms along the corridor as it filled up with water and debris. As we ran furniture was crashing into us and the water depth rose to our waists. As we left the front garden onto the road the hotel gate was forced shut by the power of the water leaving several staff and Rob trapped in the garden between the hotel and the gate. Rob was trying to re-enter the hotel unsure at to whether his children had escaped. The corridors of the hotel became impassable with furniture and wreckage. The whole of the rear of the hotel and all the boundary walls except the roadside wall collapsed. All the contents of the hotel were destroyed.
Next door at Golden Sands Hotel Vicky was trying to get her boys Charlie (10) and George (8) from their rooms to safety. As she ran through the corridor holding Charlieâ€˜s hand Charlie was swept away by the wave and crashed against furniture before being caught by one of the staff. George was trapped in his room until Andrew broke it down and rescued him
Jill and Sharon were half a mile along the beach. They were overrun by the wave and struggled through a hotel garden to the road where they saw people waving from a first floor balcony. Jill was swept off her feet but she was helped to safety to the balcony followed by Sharon.
Eve was surfing in front of Sunbeach. Due to the quick thinking of an Italian canoeist nearby she was persuaded to sit it out as they watched the devastation from the sea. She was able to get back in safely as the first tidal surge went back out. Murray too had a difficult time getting out of the water and has some injuries from debris as he struggled to get upright but was taken from the beach right through to the main road by the water. Claire, Rosie and Jamie had to endure a horrendous wait to locate them both.
At Moonbeam Phil and Jan were able to get Natalie (14) and Georgia (14) out the hotel and safely into the jungle onto high ground, along with other children.
Others from our party gathered our children from the beach area and into the jungle. The surge of water went across the road into the jungle as far as the railway line about 700 yards away.
It then receded out many hundreds of yards exposing the reef. There were a further 5 surges over the next few hours each one of diminishing strength.
All 41 of our party were eventually safe and found sanctuary with Sri Lankan friends on a hill 1 kilometre from the beach. For some of us we didnâ€˜t know our children were safe for 90 minutes.
Mean while a mile along the beach the wave overwhelmed the village market and over 1000 were killed. On any other Sunday we and our guests would have been amongst them. A little further out of the village the rail track was destroyed and a train derailed. 1400 people died. 7 miles south in Galle the bus station was overwhelmed by a 40 foot wave. Over 2000 people died there and in nearby schools and hospitals.
Most of the rest of Sunday was spent finding safe accommodation with local friends. There were constant rumours of further waves but no hard information as we had no radio or TV. At one point the rumours were so strong that we evacuated all the children further into the jungle in a truck.
Electricity and the phone system were down although most of us were able to contact our families by mobile phone. Shopping trips were hastily organised to jungle shacks to find candles and bottled water.
On Monday after a sleepless and fearful night we managed to find enough transport to evacuate half our party with the youngest children. The area quickly ran out of food and transport and fuel. We were fed and looked after by our staff and other local friends.
They continued to stay with us in spite of knowing that their own families were in danger and deeply traumatised. Chamindaâ€˜s mother had been rescued up to her neck in water. Two of our sri lankan staff have lost family members: one his mother & sister who are missing, presumed dead, at the market in Hikkaduwa town, and the other his grandmother in Ambalangoda just north of us.
We were also trying to contact friends who were on the east coast which was very badly effected. We have now got through to one of them Fred at the Siam View Hotel. He told us that several people we know died in Arugam Bay including Cairo, the 8 year old son of an American friend Richard Brassard and Per Goodman the owner of the Stardust Guest House.
Over the following 3 days we tried to locate fuel and vans to evacuate our party from the area. We managed to get some fuel from the High Commission who had set up a centre in Galle. We told them about a local Brit with a broken pelvis lying in a house nearby in the jungle. He was eventually evacuated by helicopter three days later.
We managed to get the last party out on Wednesday and travelled up the coast to Colombo to get flights out of the country.
To see the aftermath we wonder at our good fortune at having all of our group alive and safe with no serious injuries except the emotional trauma of the experience. Now we wish to return the exceptional kindness shown by the Sri Lankan people and help where possible.
Family, Friends & Guests of Sunbeach Hotel, who were there on 26 December 04 & all of whom are safe and well:
Jo Sheehan, Richard Rogers, Alex Webb, Georgia Webb, Liz Agiss,
Joe Murray, Rachel Lewis, Andrew Baker, Sharon Webber, Dave Rose, Mandy Rose, Roger Ely, Fenella Bosomworth, Jan Hall, Phil Hall, Natalie Hall, Nicky Sheehan, Neil Butler, Rob Small, Anna Delaney, Katie Boniface,
Laura Boniface, Michael Boniface, Maria Boniface, Kyle Harrison,
Damien Harrison, Lawrence Harrison, Veronica Harrison, Murray Johnstone, Claire Johnstone, Jamie Johnstone, Evie Johnstone, Rosie Johnstone,
Jill Morrell, Vicky Pearson, Charlie Pearson, George Pearson, Sheryl Hall, Martin Kinsella, Jerry Callow, Alessandra Petucco, Christina Gordon,
How you can help
We are setting up a private fund to support the local communities of Dodanduwa & Hikkaduwa, fundraising amongst family and friends and previous visitors to Sunbeach.
Many of our staff and local friends come from these communities including our Manager Chaminda Pandithage.
Dodanduwa is Chamindaâ€˜s home village and he is a leader of the village committee that supports the local community in many ways. They raise funds for people who have suffered loss, organise the yearly carnival and last year raised funds and distributed food to flood victims.
The village is very poor with most people earning their living by fishing or travelling to other towns including Colombo to work. Most earn between Â£200 – Â£450 a year. Now they cannot travel as the railway has been destroyed and they cannot fish as much of the fleet was wrecked. Many people lost their homes.
Chaminda and his committee will identify people in most need and distribute purchased goods and funds.
Sunbeach started it with Â£500 and Mike Rowan (Big Rory) has raised Â£2500 in Australia.
Many of our friends who have visited Sunbeach have already committed further funds.
The first money has gone to providing food parcels. Â£500 will feed 2000 people for one day.
We expect to help provide medicine, temporary and later permanent accommodation and then help the fishermen re-establish their businesses.
We are working with Chaminda to provide a shopping list and a reporting system so that people can see what their money is providing.
We are looking at the most efficient way of setting up, managing and auditing the fund.
Details of the account will be posted here in the next few days â€“ week of 3rd January 2005.
The new account will be administered by an independent accountant and details of monies raised and expenditure will be updated on this website.
Alternatively you could donate money to an appropriate international aid agency, details can be found on the internet.
Neil and Nicky expect to be returning to Sri Lanka shortly to support Chaminda in developing the fund and identifying other ways we can support the community in getting back on its feet.
One of the best ways anyone can support the local economy is to return to the island as visitors. We will post information on health and safety issues in the area as we receive it.
Please forward this link to friends and family. www.sunbeachsurf.com Thankyou
………Our next effort is directed towards collecting medicines/dry rations to be
taken to Pottuvil – a private group is organising a little convoy to go to
the Lahugala nature reserve where evacuees from the arugam bay/Pottuvil
area are being sheltered. At least 10 of us from office will be joining. I
‘ not sure if you’ve been to Arugam Bay? We have holidayed there ever so
often & apparantly none of the guest houses/the fishing
village/roads/bridges are standing – its like a wasteland of mud & debris.
The four wheel club was there yesterday & one of the guys called in with
this infor – they ‘ve been helping with the evacuvation of people marooned
in the jungles of Panama – extreme tip – south-east of the island.
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I just talked to Fred, the owner of the siam view hotel in arugam bay. He told me that almost everything is washed away included the stardust beach hotel and their staff and tourists. only a very small part of the svh is still standing. at that time, where the tsunami was coming about 1500 people have been staying in arugam bay and nearly 1000 are dead. All the people which survived are staying in this small part of the svh. no health organisations came to arugam bay to help the people, just one helicopter came to take out all of the injured tourists. If you want more informations, look at the following website: http://www.arugam.com/help.htm
Posted: 29-Dec-2004 06:41
I’m looking for information about Arugam Bay, especially about Sooriya’s Guest House and a Sri Lankan guy called AMIN who used to work there. Does anybody have any information? I’ve seen some links here but the information is pretty sparse..