WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka


  2005 BBC

Photo journal: Tsunami family goes home

Words: Keith Ewing/Tearfund Pictures: Geoff Crawford/Tearfund

It is almost a month since the Indian Ocean tsunami devastated Sri Lanka's coastline, taking with it thousands of lives, homes and livelihoods. The UK-based charity Tearfund has followed a Sri Lankan family back to its home in the eastern Batticaloa district. The Kanaharathnam family has been crammed with 2,300 others into a displaced people's centre in Kallady-Dutch Bar since the disaster.

Rajan, 30, a fisherman, lost his parents, parents-in-law and daughter among many family members swept to their deaths on 26 December.
He is taking his wife Jayasethre, 23, sister Santhirakala, 25, and surviving daughter Rajokshana, nine, back to the rubble of their former home for the first time. "The church centre is better than no home but we are suffering a lot. "We are unable to sleep because of the noise and we are worried about getting sick."

Jayasethre: "I am scared walking back to my home for the first time. The whole area looks like a burned graveyard. "On the day it happened the waves came and picked us up - I held tightly onto Rosaline, my four-year-old daughter. "We were floating high up near the tops of the trees. Rosaline kept swallowing water and choking. "She died while I was holding her, then I could not hold her any longer and had to let her go. "I cried and thought that I was going to die too."

Rajan: "This was my aunt's home. She, her husband and two children were killed. "We have been fishermen for generations in this family. I do not know whether the government will let us come back to live here."

Jayasethre: "Our clothes and our money are around here somewhere, or the waves have taken them away. "We have lost everything. Whether we live or die, we don't mind."

Santhirakala: "My uncle shouted to me to grab hold of the top branches of this tree. "The sea had picked me up and I was floating with only my head above the water. "I was unable to hold on to my 18-month-old son, Theelepan. The water ripped him from my arms."

Rajan: "For a fisherman I was well off because I employed other fishermen. "We will never recover this loss. Before this we were happy and we enjoyed our life, now life is terrible. "We have only the clothes we were wearing on that day and items given to us in the refugee camp. "It would take me 25 years to get enough money to have the house I have lost. We have nothing."

Rajan: "On the days before the tsunami I had caught plenty of fish, so I was attending the market in the town with my daughter Rajokshana.
"I had two outboard motorboats and 17 other smaller boats, employing 40 people. When the wave came it killed 100 people in those 40 families.
"We have no possessions, no money, no home or boats. "I would like to start fishing again but without money I cannot go back to fishing."


Rajokshana: "My bedroom was there. "I won't be able to sleep there any more."

Four hundred metres from her home, Santhirakala finds one of her petticoats in the rubble. "This is the only thing of mine that I have found."


WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka