South Coast Register Australia

South Coast Register Australia

Memorial for tragedy
Thursday, 29 December 2005

A RIP carried a bouquet of flower into the water at Cudmirrah Beach on Monday as a group gathered to quietly reflect on the events of a year earlier as a tsunami wreaked devastation on parts of Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

Included in the group were Malcolm Holland and Peter Harding, who spent several weeks in Sri Lanka following the catastrophe.

They were greeted by scenes of devastation that Mr Holland said would never leave him.

“I think about it every day,” he said.

While they travelled to Sri Lanka primarily to look for and look after family members and relatives of their wives Wascindy and Sandra, the pair ended up performing potentially life-saving work in the coastal village Aragum Bay.

They helped with the clean-up including establishing toilet facilities, as well as providing medical assistance to people in a refugee camp and counselling people afraid to return to the area where their village once stood.

Mr Holland said the villageA?a??E?s inhabitants were about 10km inland when he arrived, sheltering in a Buddhist temple being used as a retreat.

Some had been killed when the wall of water hit the village, and only three of the homes had survived the devastation.

The immediate aim was to check on family members and make sure they were okay.

“We werenA?a??E?t sure until we saw them,” Mr Holland said.

From there the pair used money raised in Sussex Inlet and other parts of the Shoalhaven to hire a back hoe and employ staff to start the clean up operation.

Money was even given to each family in the village, helping them to survive the troubled period and the money also stretched far enough to transport a couple of teenagers, one of whom lost her mother in the tsunami, to Sussex Inlet for winter.

While the two Sussex men had a major impact of the lives of the villagers is such a difficult time, Mr Holland was quick to shrug off any praise.

“We only did a little bit,” he said, explaining that any help he and Mr Harding could offer was only possible because of the generosity of local people.

“All we did was just scratch the surface.”

He said there was still work to be done, as there were “a lot of on-going issues” afflicting the area hit by the tsunami.

While a group went in immediately to clean out wells, Mr Harding said there were still problems getting clean drinking water, and many children were still sick from problems sustained while fleeing the surging water.

Severe infections were rife, while many still did not have permanent housing.

Even more pressing are psychological problems and fear, with many in the village refusing to go back to their past lives based on fishing as they still fear the sea.

Mr Holland said there were reports the Sri Lankan government wanted to take control of the coastal area for tourist accommodation, cutting the villagers off from their traditional livelihood and deepening the wounds left by the tsunamiA?a??E?s killer waves

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