Commemorative events were held today across the homeland to remember the 35,000 victims of the catastrophic tsunami on December 26, 2004.
Recalling the disaster
The United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said five days after the disaster that almost two thirds of those killed across the island were in the Tamil homeland of the North-East.
"The North-East is the region worst affected by the tsunami," the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) said in a joint report.
A doctor based in Amparai described the moment the waves struck. “We went from the hospital to retrieve some bodies of people killed by the first wave near the Pandiruppu beach," he said from the Kalmunai base hospital just hours after the disaster. "We saw at a distance another massive wave, more than hundred feet high, speeding towards Kalmunaikudi. It was like a diagonal wall rising out of the sea. The sight was terrible. We ran for our lives. I do not believe that anything could have survived the force of that wave.”
VIllagers in Navalady in Batticaloa wept as they talked of the disaster days later. “My child was clinging to me and screaming ‘father’ ‘father’ right to the end. Fearing that I was going to drown as the force of the water worsened, I released him from my grip hoping he would have a better chance. But I was eventually saved and he was swept away,” cried one villager. “Our other son was at a tuition class and perished with his whole class.”
“People were screaming though the night after the incident," said another. "Navalady is no longer a village, it is a graveyard full of bodies."
Within hours of the waves striking the coastline, the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had issued an urgent appeal for international assistance, declaring the situation as a National Emergency.
“It is ironical that this tragedy had befallen on a people who suffered the brutality of a war for two decades and are continuing to exist without realising the basic dividends of peace, normalcy,” said the LTTE, adding “the human disaster and the tragedy the survivors face are unprecedented and need immediate and effective humanitarian intervention.”
"I sincerely hope that the Internation Community will respond with the necessary financial and material relief to assist our people," said the leader of LTTE's Political Wing, S.P. Thamilchelvan.
The Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO), the following day, released an appeal to the international community listing urgent requirements that needed to be attended to.
Read more here.
Uduththurai, Tsunami memorial
Kalmunai Tsunami Memorial, Amparai
University of Jaffna
Karaitheevu Tsunami Memorial, Amparai