Sri Lanka Tsunami 2004 revisited part 1

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Sri Lanka tsunami survivor Aragum Bay 2004 by John Wilson Photographer Sri Lanka tsunami survivor Aragum Bay 2004 by John Wilson Photographer

Miraculous survival - Aragam Bay, Sri Lanka 2004

This short story and the stories that follow will recount the enormous tragedy of the boxing day Tsunami that occurred 10 years ago this coming week as I recorded the unfolding story for news organizations around the world. You can read more about my work as a news photojournalist on my John Wilson Media Photography and Video website Here

When I landed at Colombo airport Sri lanka in the dead of night after a 13 hour flight from Australia I was faced with a scene of kaos and confusion with desperate people trying to leave the country and emergency services attempting to move equipment and personnel into the tsunami disaster zone. It had only been 48 hours since the boxing day tsunami digested much of the Sri Lankan southern and eastern coastline. All road and rail networks along the coast had been rendered unusable due to water inundation and millions of tons of rubble and debris the tsunami left in its wake as it levelled communities.

Tsunami damage Sri lanka 2004

The main rail line south from Colombo was either totally blocked by debris from the tsunami or moved and buckled from the immense force of water.

I'll detail the efforts myself and reporter colleague Michael McKenna from The Australian newspaper went to to get into the devastated eastern coastal areas of Sri Lanka in another story but the accompanying pictures were taken in the coastal township of Aragum Bay. The photo of a man and a small dog illustrated a story of incredible loss and amazing survival. We had found the man, Kirya, wandering through the rubble strewn landscape that was once a beautiful seaside community with gently rolling surf and swaying palm trees. Kirya seemed somewhat dazed as we spoke with him but what he was about to describe to us left us with tears in our eyes. His dazed state was due to his trauma and loss and unfortunately this was to be one of many heart wrenching stories we were to find as we reported the story to the world.

Tsunami survivor at Aragum Bay Sri Lanka

Tsunami survivor finds the family dog after his home and family are swept away

As it turned out Kirya had been away from his home in another part of the community when the tsunami hit the area and he recalled running for his life along the street when he noticed a massive wall of water flooding into the village from the sea and suddenly being engulfed in a swirling tide of water. Finding it difficult to walk once the seething water had caught him he grabbed onto a nearby palm tree to stop himself being swept away. As the water rose above his waist  Kirya scrambled to the top of the tree and watched in horror as the water kept rising. He explained how helpless he felt as he saw people washing past in the torrent with the sounds of timber and metal cracking and bending as the water engulfed everything in the village. The water eventually began to withdraw after some time and Krya decided it was safe to come down from the tree that had saved his life. He explained that the community was barely recognizable with a few structures still standing and only the bent over street lights and power poles indicating where the roads had been and were now covered with mud, sand and tons of debris. Arriving back at his home Kirya discovered his home and family had been swept away and it wasn't until the following day when he continued the search for his family that he found the family dog, unscathed from its ordeal and wandering through the rubble about a kilometer inland from their home. I was told he eventually found the bodies of his family members some days after we left Aragum Bay.

reporter Michael Mckenna at Aragun Bay Sri lanka after the 2004 tsunami

Reporter Michael McKenna from The Australian newspaper at Aragum Bay Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami.

 

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