Thank you for your concern about my safety in the wake of last Sunday's devastating tidal wave.
I am enormously relieved that my family and household have escaped the ravages of the sea that suddenly invaded most parts of coastal Sri Lanka, leaving a trail of destruction.
But many others were not so fortunate. For over two million Sri Lankans and a large number of foreign tourists holidaying here, the day after Christmas turned out to be a living nightmare reminiscent of The Day After Tomorrow. My heart-felt sympathy goes out to all those who lost family members or friends.
Among those who directly experienced the waves were my staff based at our diving station in Hikkaduwa, and my holiday bungalows in Kahawa and Thiranagama all beachfront properties located in southern areas that were badly hit. Our staff members are all safe, even though some are badly shaken and relate harrowing first hand accounts of what happened. Most of our diving equipment and boats at Hikkaduwa were washed away. We still don't know the full extent of damage -- it will take a while for us to take stock as accessing these areas is still difficult.
This is indeed a disaster of unprecedented magnitude for Sri Lanka, which lacks the resources and capacity to cope with the aftermath. We are encouraging concerned friends to contribute to the relief efforts launched by various national and international organisations. If you wish to join these efforts, I can recommend two options.
- Contribute to a Sri Lanka disaster relief fund launched by an internationally operating humanitarian charity, such as Care or Oxfam.
- Alternatively, considering supporting Sarvodaya, the largest development charity in Sri Lanka, which has a 45-year track record in reaching out and helping the poorest of the poor. Sarvodaya has mounted a well organised, countrywide relief effort using their countrywide network of offices and volunteers who work in all parts of the country, well above ethnic and other divisions. Their website, www.sarvodaya.lk, provides bank account details for financial donations. They also welcome contributions in kind
There is much to be done in both short and long terms for Sri Lanka to raise its head from this blow from the seas. Among other things, the country needs to improve its technical and communications facilities so that effective early warnings can help minimise losses in future disasters.
Curiously enough, in my first book on Sri Lanka, I had written about another tidal wave reaching the Galle harbour (see Chapter 8 in The Reefs of Taprobane, 1957). That happened in August 1883, following the eruption of Krakatoa in roughly the same part of the Indian Ocean.
29 December 2004