Sri Lanka Tsunami 2004 revisited part 4

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26-12-2014
skin injuries on feet of tsunami survivor 2004 Sri lanka by John Wilson Australia photojournalist skin injuries on feet of tsunami survivor 2004 Sri lanka by John Wilson Australia photojournalist

Mother and mentally retarded son survive 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka.

As the first photojournalist into several regions of eastern Sri Lanka I saw first hand the initial struggle for survivors to comprehend what had just occurred and the task ahead to simply survive for the days and weeks ahead.

It would take several days and weeks for humanitarian aid agencies to make their way into the region and while food, water and shelter were a priority medical care became increasingly important as the days progressed. Many people that had been swept up in the surging tsunami torrent had sustained injuries as they were tossed around in the building debris the tsunami had devoured. There were broken limbs and abrasions but also severe infections from being submerged in water infused with raw effluent from inundated sewerage systems.

Skin infection on tsunami survivor Sr Lanka

I saw many disturbing scenes of death, tragedy and hardship as I made my way through the tsunami damaged communities but one heart wrenching seen will always stay with me. I was working in the township of Pottuvil on the Sri Lanka east coast and on my way out of the town I noticed a structure that looked like a large storage building. Myself and reporter Michael Mckenna from The Australian newspaper decided to stop and take a look as there were people milling about. we discovered the building was a type of community building for the farming community which was being used as a makeshift shelter for tsunami survivors. We entered and began speaking with desperate and tired families sitting on the cement floor of the building when I happened to notice  a young mother gently nursing  a child in one corner of the building. It turned out the young single mother was caring for her mentally retarded son. She had managed to out run the tsunami, son in her arms, and get to high ground but even with this incredible effort survival wasn't guaranteed for the mother and her son unless she could find help. There was not enough help and medical supplies for able bodied survivors let alone a child with a disability.  The womans plight really touched me emotionally and it was such a caring and gentle image of a mother and child sitting alone in the corner. I remember thinking to myself how on earth the mother was going to be able to give her son the care he needed. We actually left some money with the woman so she would be able to purchase supplies or medication if needed as they became available. I still think about this photo and the young mother gently cradling her son she had rescued from certain death had she not been able to out run the tsunami.

Tsunami survivor Sri Lanka 2004

A mother cradles her mentally retarded son after escaping the violent torrent of the tsunami at Pottuvil on Sri lanka's east coast.

 

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