Monday, 8 January 2007

After the Tsunami: Sri Lanka Rising to the Challenges

Presentation by Uchita de Zoysa, CED at the University of Tropical Medicine, London and organized by LONDON21 (February 2005)

26th Sunday December 2004. Between 9-10.00am I was disturbed by my dog howling in a high tone. My mother-in-Law calls and informs us the sea is coming inland. I get a call from India (a consumer activist) to see whether I am safe. Even when media started reporting we did not understand the gravity of the situation. Then the evening news of the ITN showed people and vehicles getting washed out by the sea. My brother was also in a coastal village called Ambalangoda that was badly hit by the waves. But they were the fortunate ones who are still alive.

At 0059 GMT, a massive earthquake registering 9.0 on the Richter Scale struck off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. This was followed by a series of more than 67 aftershocks. The earthquake triggered a series of tsunami waves that radiated through the Bay of Bengal at a rate of more than 500 kilometers per hour, directly impacting coastal areas of Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Reunion, Seychelles, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Thailand.

As of January 17, official figures indicated that more than 31,000 people in Sri Lanka were dead and approximately 6,300 remained missing; The final death count could be between 40,000-60,000 • During relief efforts. Displaced person estimates stand at 443,000. Affected population is estimated between one and two million, out of a total population of approximately 19 million people. The Government estimates the number of damaged houses at more than 130,000, of which more than 99,000 have been completely destroyed. About 217,000 people are still living in relief camps, while approximately 226,000 people have moved in with friends or relatives. However, this number continues to decrease over time as families return to their homes to begin rebuilding.

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