Tsunami touches local residents
January 7, 2005
Tsunami touches local residents

A SriLankan teacher at the St.Martin’s Secondary school told SEARCHLIGHT that some of her distant cousins were swept away by the tsunami, which killed over 150,000 people as it crashed ashore around the Indian Ocean. {{more}}

But the fact that none of her immediate family members were swept away by the tsunamis could not lessen the grief felt by Kaushalya Nedd, a Sri Lankan living in St.Vincent since 1993.

Nedd first learnt about the December 26 tsunami, triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Indonesia while looking at BBC. The tsunami took just 75 minutes to hit the beaches and islands of Thailand’s Andaman Sea coast, 375 miles from the earthquake’s epicenter.

“We learnt of the tsunami the same day it happened, but for the first two days we could not reach anybody because we could not get any phone calls into the country,” said Nedd.

The teacher said that it took four days for her to establish contact with anyone from her homeland. She contacted a policeman friend Kamal Keriella who lived in Balauthota in the South of Sri Lanka, a village affected by the tsunamis.

Nedd said that her long time friend painted a horrific picture as he gave an eyewitness description of what happened.

She said Keriella worked at a police station with 43 other policemen. According to Nedd’s second hand account, when the first wave came in, the officers sped to the aid of persons caught in the turmoil. At this point, a second wave came in and Keriella watched 40 of his colleagues being swept away.

Nedd is currently attempting to raise funds to send home as Keriella has told her they are in need of gloves, masks, shoes and clothing among other things. She is hoping to join the Sri Lankan community in Trinidad on January 22 to help with a fund raising dinner to be held to aid the thousands of persons suffering after the disaster.

Nedd said one of the most distressing things about the disaster is that a lot of kids have been killed and a lot more left homeless and orphaned. The disaster is believed to have left as many as 13,000 children orphaned in the region. She also spoke about the number of mass graves.

Nedd’s brother Pubudu Silva, who also resides in St.Vincent, also spoke about the effect the disaster has on him. He said he feels very sad to know that so many of his countrymen have been killed and currently attempting to gather supplies to send to Sri Lanka. He said that the economy of a lot of the villages would be severely affected as they depend heavily on tourism and fishing to make a living.

Another Sri Lankan living here, KPMG accountant Mahendrarajah Sugeeswaran, described the event as a great tragedy. He said two of his friends were killed by the giant waves, although his family was not directly affected. Sugeeswaran’s parents, his brother and sister live in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He said the only other tragedy in his mind was when a Monsoon hit in 1978 killing over 1000 people. He was only three years old at the time.

Meanwhile, relief officials are still working to assess the death toll from the December 26 tsunami that killed tens of thousands of people in more than 11 countries.

CNN has confirmed that the undersea earthquake off Sumatra and the giant waves it triggered killed 155,743 people, and that number is expected to rise.