Feature Article

No sunny times for east coast idyll

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 01 February 2005, 10:50 GMT]
Pasikudah was a tourist’s paradise. Clear blue waters and white sands of the bay attracted thousands. War completely ruined the booming tourist industry here in the mid eighties. The beautiful beach, dotted with the bombed out shells of star class hotels, became a no go zone. Today the beach has vanished, ripped by the giant Boxing Day waves. The hamlet that gave its name to the area is a heap of rubble and debris. There is no warning about mines from destroyed defenses of the Sri Lanka army garrison bordering Pasikudah village.

Lagoon formed by the Tsunami

Salvaging building materials
Refugees at Kalkudah school
Skeletal remains of a Tsunami victim near Mariamman Temple
Pieces of Pasikudah Mariamman Temple
Soldiers from the Kalkudah SLA garrison standing guard near defense perimeter wiped out by the sea
Sea over Pasikudah beach
Mr. Jeyanandamoorthy showing the land suited for resettling Pasikudah refugees
Powerful Tsunami waves rent asunder the beach and the land behind it, forming a small lagoon. A bridge over the Tsunami made lagoon would be required now for fishermen and bathers to reach the other side of the bay.

Survivors come to Pasikudah everyday to search for their belongings and to salvage usable building materials from their destroyed homes. They are at risk from mines that were dislodged when the Tsunami wiped out the Kalkudah SLA garrison. Mine Action Group (MAG), a British NGO, had inspected the place but there is no indication that Pasikudah is free from mines.

The place has not been cleared. A rotting skeleton of a person killed by the waves still hangs from the fallen roof of a house. There are skeletal remains of a putrefied body that had been burnt near the Pasikudah Mariamman Temple.

Three hundred and sixty one persons, most of them women and children, were killed by the sea in Kalkudah and Pasikudah. Seven hundred and forty seven houses were smashed by the giant waves that rose over coconut palms by the beach.

Residents here say more than two hundred soldiers, including the commander, were killed when the giant waves directly hit the camp on Kalkudah shore. There were more soldiers in the camp on 26 December because a large group had come here for training, according to residents who lived near the camp.

“I ran to the shore when the waves receded. There was only the sea and debris. I realized I was inside the camp only when I saw a heavy artillery gun gnarled by the force of the waves. All the buildings in the camp were flattened. The defense earthwork around it had vanished”, said one of them.

The day after the Tsunami, the military had sealed off the entire Kalkudah and Pasikudah area to search for weapons, ammunition, artillery shells and sensitive equipment which were in the garrison. Local people were allowed to go in search of their missing and dead kith and kin only after a protest and intervention by Mr. Senathirajah Jeyanandamoorthy, Tamil National Alliance MP for Batticaloa.

The Sri Lanka army set up this garrison and artillery base in the British period rest house and its environs in 1990. It was located on the beach so that the military could safely pull out its artillery by sea if there was any serious threat from the Liberation Tigers.

“Today the biggest post Tsunami problem here is finding appropriate land for resettlement. The fisher folk of Pasikudah need land from where they can pursue their livelihood. State land that is available for their resettlement is far from the sea and unsuitable for making a village. The ideal place is privately owned. It is near the lagoon and at the recommended distance from the sea. If someone helps us to buy this long unoccupied land, the people of Pasikudah can rebuild their village here”, Mr. Jeyanandamoorthy, MP told TamilNet Monday.

“Each family needs 20 perches of land. There are hundred and eighty eight families from Pasikudah. If we add land required for a school and temple, we would need at least twenty one acres. There are eighteen acres in this plot. Additional land is available for sale. The owners are asking for 2.5 million rupees (approx. 25000 USD). I am appealing to well wishers to help us buy this land. We cannot let Pasikudah dissolve in a refugee camp like many of our villages which were destroyed by the Sri Lanka army in the past”, the MP, formerly TamilNet’s chief correspondent in Batticaloa said.

Pasikudah refugees are now housed in the Kalkudah School.

“These people have to be moved out to a suitable shelter to reopen the school. So far there is no viable temporary solution to the problem in sight”, the MP added.

Mr. Erambamoorthy
Mr. Kulanthaivel Erambamoorthy, 45, President of Pasikudah Mariamman Temple’s trustee board explained the quandary his people face.

“The government has offered us land in Vembu, which is a barren spot four kilometres from the sea. All of us have depended on the sea for our livelihood for generations. Where do we keep our boats if we are that far from the beach? Also, we set out to sea at night. If we live in Vembu, we have to walk through the military camp area, which is very risky after dark”, he said.

“We want to rebuild our village. But we do not want to lose our identity”, Erambamoorthy emphasized.

The beach ripped by Tsunami waves


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