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22 Dec

Boxing Day Tsunami

Remembering the 10 year anniversary of the Boxing Day Tsunami

26-12-2004 – A day that got stuck in everyone’s mind: the devastating Boxing Day Tsunami, also widely known as the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake. On this day, a 9.1 magnitude earthquake which occurred just off the western coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, hit 14 countries and resulted –combined with the earthquake -in a death toll of more than 230,000 people and affected a further 5 million people.

Tsunami Sri Lanka

As the 10th anniversary approaches, Sri Lankans still remember the tragic day that destroyed and displaced people’s families, homes, businesses and shook a nation.

Here at Templeberg Villa Galle 3km inland the waves lapped at our front entrance. Our staff remind us that where there were once lush emerald green paddy fields dotted around Templeberg Villa now you will find native salt grasses. The mangrove has marched forward to the low land areas around Templeberg and left it’s salty footprint as a constant reminder of what happened on 26-12-2004.

Temple procession

The weekend around the 26th December 2004 was a major holiday in Sri Lanka, as Christmas coincided with the Buddhist full moon holiday (Poya Day), which meant thousands of local and foreign tourists were on holidays to the beaches in Sri Lanka.

Train Disaster Sri Lanka

Within two hours of the earthquake, south and east Sri Lanka had been hit by massive waves eventually killing more than 35,000 people with a further 1.5 million who lost their homes. Besides Indonesia, Sri Lanka was the second most heavily affected country by the tsunami, taking many tragic moments into account, such as the world’s deadliest train disaster: a massive 7-9m wave hit the overcrowded ‘Queen of the Sea Line’, killing more than 1700 passengers. Many were captured and drowned inside the carriages while those who stood on top of the roof were swept out to sea.

Train

Sri Lankan Women’s Swimming Project

Many of the people killed were young women and children who died because they did not know how to swim. Templeberg Villa supports the Sri Lanka Women’s Swimming Project which is teaching Sri Lankan Women basic water survival tips and swimming strokes. We have written before about the I can Swim Can you Project.

Swimming

Tsunami Photo Museum Sri Lanka

Another charity which Templeberg supports is the Tsunami Photo Museum in Telwatta that reminds visitors off the disaster and relief support during its aftermath. It features hundreds of photos, newspaper articles and handwritten letters by victims, local families and helpers. Many of the volunteers at the Centre are survivors and lost many members of their family in the tsunami. One day with the help of overseas donations and aid it is hoped that a permanent museum can be built on the site to preserve the history.

Though the fear of a new tsunami has not disappeared entirely, the community has been stronger than ever – Local and international organisations developed early warning systems and teach how to act in the event of a tsunami plus escape routes have been implemented with regular drillstaking place. But most importantly: Sri Lankans everywhere shifted to a positive mindset  looking towards the future.

Despite what has been thrown at it, Sri Lanka has seen a rapid economic growth the decade after the tsunami. Tourism has recovered and Sri Lanka turns currently into one of Asia’s emerging travel destinations.

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