Arugam Bridge

John Headland, P.E., Principal, Moffatt & Nichol A?a??a?? Sri Lanka COPRI Team Leader

February 3, 2005

Arugam Bridge

Our journey started in Hambantota, the site of the largest reported tsunami height (11 m). The central fishing harbor and the surrounding home areas were severely damaged, and many were killed (about 4,000). We verified water marks that support the 11 m value. Some ancient masonry seawalls were toppled by the wave as was a transmission tower (actually, a floating bus knocked the tower over).

We spoke to a local resident, a 36 year old man. He approached us to thank us for coming to his village to help. We explained that we were here as engineers to understand what happened so that future
disasters could be avoided. The man’s wife and three daughters survived the event. Unfortunately, his parents and his sister’s family (except for one small girl) were all killed. It was a heart-rending story; he asked us to pray for him. Suddenly, our mission seemed insignificant and shallow compared to his suffering. Upon reflection, however, it seems that in our role as civil engineers, we must learn from this tragic experience in order to help in any–albeit small–way. That is our hope. A few moments later, we saw the initial construction of a new inland village of 5,000 homes where residents who used to live near the water will live.

It took us four hours to travel from Hambantota to Arugam Bay, a distance of 170 km, via an inland route, due to the absence of a road along the coast (in the vicinity of Yala [Ruhana] National Park.) The scenery was exquisitely beautiful, with leafy jungles, large mountainous outcrops, rubber and teak trees, and, amazingly, a herd of distant elephants. An advantage of our inland excursion was that we had the opportunity to observe Sri Lankan life unaffected by the tsunami. Accordingly, we saw village fairs, simple farmers’ homes, and more smiling faces. The scenes were a striking contrast to the decimated villages along the coast, and helped us to understanding what had been destroyed.

Lithium borderline personality We arrived in Arugam Bay, the surfer’s paradise of Sri Lanka, in the early afternoon. Conspicuous from a distance was the damaged Arugam bridge. As we observed the bridge, we could see that one of the piers had shifted, the likely result of bed scour from the extreme velocities produced at the bridge as tsunami-elevated waters filled and emptied Arugam Bay. Similarly, the bridge’s southern approach causeway was eroded away, leaving a large gap between fast land and the southern end of the bridge. In the absence of a working bridge, Canadian Marines were taking locals across the coastal tidal inlet in Zodiac boats, which they had been doing for weeks. The small inlet allowed communication of ocean and bay waters. The littoral drift appears to move from north to south and had formed a long spit from the updrift shoreline. As a result, the small inlet was situated directly adjacent to the downdrift shoreline. Efforts had been made to close the inlet with sand so that vehicles could pass to the south along the beach; however, the inlet reopened during high tide.

The Marines told us that a large portion of their efforts focused on water supply. A challenge was that the salt waters of the tsunami had forced much of the lighter, fresh, water from local wells. As a result, they had to pump large amounts of salt water from the wells before fresh water would return and could be used. Of the 500 available wells, only 75 were up and running.

Next, we visited the town of Komari. The damage here was very severe. Unlike other areas that we had visited, this was a relatively narrow barrier island (one could stand in the roadway and see both the ocean and the bay). Furthermore, the tsunami was at least five meters high here. In some locations, there were swaths that extended from ocean to bay. Homes within the swath appear to have been planed off by the tsunami; there were few vestiges. Strangely, only palm trees remained (palms seem to have survived the tsunami throughout Sri Lanka). As is the case for hurricanes in the U.S., barrier island communities are particularly vulnerable to tsunami effects. Both Komari and Arugam Bay are located in the Ampara District in which more citizens perished than in any other district of Sri Lanka (more than 10,000 people).

We drove over several additional bridge/causeway structures (Kormani, Tambiluvil, Sinnamahatluvaran, Kalioda) on our way to Batticaloa, each damaged and repaired to varying degrees. The principle cause of damage was scour of earthen approaches leading to the small bridge spans. In many cases, the more severe erosion was on the bayward side of the causeways. In most cases, the tidal inlet to the ocean was either a very small opening or was already closed to littoral drift.

Just before sunset, we arrived at Kalmunai. Our estimate of watermark elevations suggested that the tsunami here was not as high as at other locations (approximately 5 m). Building density, on the other hand, was extremely high, and can be envisaged as single-family apartments, side by side, one or two stories high. A few roads and alleys separate these apartment homes. As a result, a tremendous number of people fell victim to the tsunami. A general phenomenon observed throughout the country was apparent in Kalmunia: the first few rows of houses were destroyed by the tsunami wave, and acted to dissipate it. Interior houses, as a result, were not as extensively damaged.

Our coastline voyage ended at Batticoloa. Our guides advised us not to visit the area north of Batticoloa, as Tiger rebels (LTTE) in that region would not allow us passage.

Tomorrow is our last inspection day. We will visit Trincomalee, and return to the inland town of Anuradhapura. cheap online pharmacy generic viagra canada viagra vs cialis

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