Indian Ocean Tsunami Reports From the Field -- Part 3
Beside Force and Pattern of Wave, Other Factors Influence Damage and Recovery
May 9, 2005
The southern tip of Sri Lanka
By Guillermo Franco, Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio, Bijan Khazai and J. Carter Ingram
We have been traveling along the west coast of Sri Lanka, from Colombo towards the southern coast, rounding the tip of the country and following the coast north.
The devastation on the eastern and northern coasts has been astounding. Entire villages were destroyed, and are now completely desolate, with only a few houses and temples remaining amid the rubble. The northern and eastern coasts were hit directly by the tsunami waves, rather than the diffracted waves, which hit the southern and western coasts.
Yet, the force and patterns of the wave are not the only factors that influenced the regional differences in degrees of damage and recovery.
The southern coast hosts many tourist areas and has a sound road infrastructure, while the north and east are less developed, mainly due to the 20-year war between the government and the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) of the northeast. There, the legacy of the war is most apparent abandoned houses, military camps, government checkpoints and signs warning children about landmines.
The political conflict combined with less developed road networks along the eastern and northern coasts seem to have resulted in less aid and international nongovernmental organization (NGO) activity, even though these areas were hardest hit by the tsunami.
However, the long history of war did leave a legacy of disaster relief and preparedness. Organizations working in the area had experience in setting up camps for internally displaced people, which facilitated the rapid establishment of camps for those who lost their homes.And, ironically, fewer NGOs working in the Northeast may have actually helped facilitate better aid coordination.