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  • Writer's pictureCarol Anne Jones

A bite into the essence of Sri Lanka

Updated: Aug 24, 2020

I just returned from a short trip to Sri Lanka, landing in Colombo then travelling a short ride to Galle where I spent 12 days. It was my first time in Sri Lanka and first impressions describe it as a beautiful natural lush tropical island, lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean while further inland from the coast you’ll find a landscape of mountains, rainforests, paddy fields, tumbling waterfalls and sweeping gorges. I took a couple of short trips inland from the coast to some tea plantations, savored the local cuisine, fruits, discovered some of the temples and the buildings from the colonial period.

The highlight and most heartfelt moment had to be visiting the Tsunami Photo Museum on Temple Road Telwatta where I had a long chat with Mrs. Kamani de Silva, one of the founders of the museum. I can say this lady had a special aura around her and we spoke about the events of the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 where she witnessed so many lives lost in the aftermath of this huge wave.

On the day it happened there was no warning and initially a smaller wave flooded her house located not far from the shore. This was followed by the shoreline receding, some people having moved further inland returned to collect their belongings, then the large wave described as tall as coconut tree hit the shore. From my perspective much of the media focus of the Tsunami was on Thailand and it really hit home the extent of the devastation in Sri Lanka this wave had caused.

The tsunami is believed to be the deadliest in recorded history, killing more than 230,000 people across 14 countries. It began at 7:59am local time on December 26, 2004, when a 9.1-magnitude quake struck off the northern tip of Sumatra in Indonesia. Scientists say the earthquake was the third-biggest ever recorded, lasting up to 10 minutes and causing the Earth to vibrate up to one centimetre. It also displaced an estimated 30 cubic kilometres of water, unleashing a massive tsunami across the Indian Ocean. Within 15 minutes of the earthquake, waves travelling at 800 kilometres an hour began striking the coasts of northern Sumatra and the Nicobar islands. Waves of up to 30 metres were recorded as the tsunami swept through Aceh, the hardest hit region of Indonesia. Around two hours after the earthquake struck, waves reached Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. and an hour later they reached the Maldives, More than seven hours after the initial quake, the tsunami was observed in Mauritius and along the east coast of Africa.

Indonesia was the nation hardest hit by the tsunami, with at least 168,000 people killed and In Sri Lanka 35,000 people were killed, while 18,000 died in India and 8,000 died in Thailand. Thousands of foreign travellers were killed in the disaster, including 26 Australians, all but two of whom died in Thailand which seems to be where all the interanational media attention was, Mrs. Kamani said it took the communities along the southern coast near Galle 2 years to recover from the effects of that Boxing Day and will long be remembered.

If you take a trip to the southern coast I’d recommend a visit to this museum, the imagery really hits you with regards to the power of nature.


ABC News Australia

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