WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka


Kohl survives tsunami, stays to help Sri Lankans


3 January 2005

HAMBURG - After surviving Asia's killer tsunami, Helmut Kohl, 74,the former German chancellor, has vowed to stay on in Sri Lanka to help organise relief for children and to demonstrate that the country needed tourist earnings.

Kohl told the German media how he watched from a hotel balcony as the water swept below him through the Sri Lankan town of Thalpe. He has now moved to a hotel closer to the Lankan capital Colombo.

The former chancellor said he had flown to Sri Lanka for a Christmas vacation with friends and ayurveda therapy, an alternative medicine treatment using herbs, massage and yoga,

based on 5,000- year-old Indian medical practices.

He had attended a "wonderful" Christmas Eve mass in Galle, never dreaming of the approaching disaster which he was to witness standing on a third-storey hotel balcony.

"I saw that the sea had changed. It sounded different. Then a huge wave rose up. It had enormous power. People ran screaming."

The water rose to the second floor of the building. Several minutes later, the Kohl party scrambled across devastated furniture to leave the building. The former chancellor said it took him several minutes to grasp that everything was different.

"The sea had swallowed up everything. Visions of the war which I experienced as a boy came to mind. It looked like it used to be after a bombing raid... We saw dead people," he said in the illustrated article for the mass-circulation paper.

None of the 50 to 60 Germans and Swiss at the hotel had been killed, and Kohl said he had initially wanted to stay on and try to organise on-the-spot relief.

"I didn't want to give the impression that I run away from things," he said. But after two days without electricity or running water, officials persuaded him to leave Thalpe. A helicopter took the Kohl party to the Colombo area.

"We are staying in Sri Lanka because we want to help start projects, especially for the children. Besides, this contributes to the local people's incomes, and the future of the country."

Kohl said that if the Colombo-area hotel where he was staying had to close for lack of guests, hundreds of families would be ruined.

"We're staying here to give a signal that this country has a future," he said.


WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka