A photo story: Five years on, forgotten victims of the tsunami

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou, 4 April 1928

Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai in Saainthamaruthu

Today is the 5th anniversary of a tsunami that devastated our country.Five years on, but how many of us still care for the people who suffered?

The tsunami hit the Indian Ocean, killing nearly hundreds of thousands in eleven countries and inundating coastal communities with waves unto one hundred feet. According to experts, it was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India were the hardest hit.

About thirty thousand people were killed in tsunami, millions injured and many more left homeless in Sri Lanka. The tidal waves hit North, East and South coastal areas.

All rushed to the spots to help the victims on December 26th 2004. People canceled their holidays, and work and took part in the process of recovering dead bodies and clearing debris. I covered the tsunami stories continuously for many months. I have traveled to North, East and South of Sri Lanka to cover untold stories. I kept traveling to the same areas after many years. My memories stand still like statues in my mind. I keep meeting the same people in these areas, where they are still struggling to survive. Most of the survivors are hesitant to recall the memories saying “it brings sadness and they want to pray for their loved ones who were killed to rest in peace”. The memories are sad and unforgettable!

There are 55 families – 205 persons (males-60 persons, females-80 persons, and children-65 persons) still live in tin sheds in Sainthamaruthu (in the Eastern Province), living behind the Jummah Mosque. Their living space is squeezed into few meters. There are only two toilets which are currently functioning, there in only one bathroom for males and females. And only three drinking water taps are in the compound. The place gets flooded immediately when it rains. It is very hot inside during the Sunny days. Snakes are their frequent visitors in the night. Flu and Chicken Pox have been infected by many in the past.

The living space looks congested with few furniture, kitchen utensils and clothes and few of them have pets such as cats and chicken. The residents here are frustrated to continue live under these circumstances. Their houses were under 65 meter buffer zone in Saainthamaruthu. They feel that “they are nobody’s people”. Most them here in Saainthamaruthu think they are not lucky, and curse their fate for being unfortunate. “Will we be getting permanent houses next year?” many ask often, but the question remains unanswered.

  • jayathilaka

    Can the peole keep count on what the government say about about development of country it has been years since the Tsunmi hit Srri lanka still a number of familiies are homelss ,the government is charged with misusing and fraud of the tunami funds received by a numbe of countries.

  • Dais

    The Transparency International, the global watchdog organization on corruption by governments around the world said last week, Sri Lanka got 2.2 Billion dollars of aid and there is no record of what happened to almost a half-a-billion (473 milion) dollars. Then another 600 million dollars was spent on projects not related to tsunami. So, out of 2.2 billion dollars only 1.2 billion was spent for tsunami victims and tsunami reconstruction. The rest is pilfered by the crooks in the Rajapakse government. We need to elect someone who pledges to get rid of corruption and family politics to have transparency and accountability in govt spending. We should not give another six years to these Rajapakse and crooks who steal our resources and aid money and then ready to kill us when we the citizens try to question or scrutinize their unethical acts.

  • Lankenvoicesforpoor

    yes, Dias, I also happened to read about this. CBK hinted about funds could have gone to wrong hands, but then the lankens started to spreach false propaganda against her. As SF speaks out today, all the expensive weaponaries were given to them under CBK govt not from MR. If AC of the country reveals people should finally understand the truth as it is.

    We collected funds for tsunami victims but it seems that only MR + family + 300 from him appointed relatives should have abused all the funds. MR should finally open up all these to the citizens of the country before asking for an another term. But the biggest joke is: the poor man in the country seems to be believing that MR is the most appropriate for the country. It is all because his manipulative speeches. Together with WW (wimal weeraswanse) MR could lead the country to an another Sudan, North korea or myanmar very soon.

  • Lankenvoicesforpoor

    I wish I could hear what Dr. Dayan Jayathilaka has to say about the the tsunami fund abuse in sl. I always very much like to read his comments on this forum. I appreciate if you could write bit more about where the funds have gone… whether MR is guilty for the entire abuses and so on. You as a political analyst what do you think about MR´s silence when it goes to discuss about the Tsnami funds. Sure, we have MR + Henchmen who are very openly corrupted in the country, but there are also good genuine leaders too in the country. Me being away from the country for the last 20 yrs, I cant understand why people being in higher posts abuse other´funds. I really dont understand. I myself collected a large sums of monies and funds were given to Servodaya.

  • http://[email protected],.au sKulanay

    The IMF should require responsibility for the tsunami funds as misuse of funds is fraudulent and how could you give IMF funds to a fraudulant Governemnt? Deduct the amount involverd from the IMF loan. The tsunami fund should have been administerd by NGO’s in constructing homes for the tsunmi victims.If they have been spent on other works they should be confiscated and given over to the tssunami victims. A hefty fine of one million dollars on Ceylon Goverment. must be impossed on Srr Lanka.The concerned officials must be jalied.
    Sam.

  • LankaLiar

    This is how we lived in this country. Tsunami economy followed by the war economy. Kidnap economy, and so on. A country gets a government it deserves. It is pity that there are millions of people who could stand by and watch all this things as long as the government hits the Tamils harder. That too is an economy not only for Sinhalease for a handful of Tamils too. The 21 clowns who visited from overseas and got tender loving care and people to people contacts in expensive hotels is a good example. I think there is some part of an economy is growing. I was told a family paid 32,000. sterling pounds to release a 54 year old sick lady from the camp. That is another economy. The country should be happy because it was paid by Tamil family. This is a tip of an iceberg. Only the victims and the families know about this. The country has no right to talk about civilisation or culture.It is a shame for every body. It can only talk about the “Humanitarian operation” the new word invented as long as some human is benefited it is a humanitarian operations. Lets wish there are few such operations for the Sinhalease.

  • Groundtruth

    It is a crime aginst the tsuanmi victims and teh donors who gave generously in a worthy cause and an outright disgrace on the part of those responsible for this grave irresponsibilty. It is surprsing the Auditor General has not spoken about the audit of these funds which were channelled through the Treasury. Of course the Bribery Commissioner, we are told, has his hands tied. So he seems helpless.

    It is even more suprising that foreign governments are mum. After all were these not their taxpayer’s money?

    The present timing of the Psreiudential Eection is a good time for tsuanmi victims/voters to demand accounatbility from government OR alternatively pose the question to the other candidates how they plan to have their righttful dues paid to them. More than a billion $ unaccounted for is no small matter!

  • LankaLiar

    Watch out fellows how the resettlement and rehabilitation economy is going to work. Lots of the cronies will be resettled in western countries lots of money will be deposited in foreign accounts. lots of cronies and the government supporters will be resettled in many luxury homes and lots of holidays for the criminals. This is resettlement economy. Sri Lanka is the ideal country to run this kind of economy. See who gains and who are affected. The poor innocent Tamils after going through all these horrors will just watch in disbelief and yet work hard to help this country. That is Tamil culture. They are paying for it. Some Sinhalease will speak out against this corruption but if the money is diverted to Sinhalease areas they will only praise that. Is there any thing wrong for a Tamil to ask for a separate state. ?