Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Update on Tsunami Situation in SRI LANKA

Fr. Derrick Mendis reports after his visit to Galle on 29th December 2004.
“I left for Galle in the Provincial's van with three friends and relief supplies. The journey was a veritable nightmare, since I have never in my life of 68 years seen such large-scale devastation. Often, we had to crawl at a snail's pace due to traffic congestion. Many lorries and vans loaded with foodstuffs, drinking-water and clothes were wending their way to the affected areas, distributing supplies to the hundreds of displaced persons lining the roadside.
The roads had been hurriedly cleared of lamp posts, debris and rubble to make room for the traffic. Bulldozers were still at work in some areas. Signboards indicate the location of makeshift refugee camps set up in various temples, churches and schools. Many houses had been completely swept away; many were roofless with crumpled walls. On both sides of the road were broken beams, rafters, tiles, furniture, mattresses, pillows and household equipment. Vehicles, even lorries and busses had been smashed and some had turned turtle. Concrete electric and telephone posts had fallen, bent and broken. Railway lines were twisted and broken like those of a toy train-set. Fibre glass and wooden trawlers, boats and outrigger canoes had capsized or washed inland, many damaged beyond repair. Fishing nets were dangling from trees and strewn all over. Naturally, the worst affected areas were those closest to the sea, and the people who suffered the greatest loss, were the fisher folk. I was astounded at the destructive power and force of a tidal wave.
The displaced people had a look of rude shock and hopeless despair written on their faces. Many were rummaging through the debris, trying to salvage anything usable or perhaps searching for their valuables. I wonder whether they will ever get over the tragic trauma that hit them suddenly like a bolt from the blues, on the fateful morning of 26th December.
My heart bled when I saw the terrible destruction in my hometown, Moratuwa, and my beloved Balapitiya where I first worked as a priest. A tidal wave of grief and anguish engulfed me and left me emotionally shattered.
At a conservative estimate, it will take eight to ten years and heavy inputs of capital, to reconstruct the damaged infra-structure (roads, bridges, culverts, railways, electricity and water-service), to re-settle and rehabilitate the displaced persons, in short, to restore the situation to what it was before 26th December.” (Courtesy: update news of Jesuits from Srilanka December 30th , 2004)
JRS Srilanka acknowledges with gratitude every contribution made by the JRS/International Office Rome towards the relief operations.
P.S. Amalraj SJ
Regional Director
JRS/South Asia