Boys Throwing Rocks Into the Ocean. Day After the Tsunami
Update Update: I think the www.sarvodaya.org site is pretty good now. We’re taking Mastercard thru a local bank and everything else through PayPal (via Sarvodaya USA). Amma (my mom) wants to set up an interactive map that shows trucks going down and requests coming up. IBM has volunteered some programmers and I’m going to go meet with them in a few hours.
Update – I recommend Sarvodaya.org – they’re well organized, experienced and responsible with money. Plus I’m sleeping there so I can keep you updated. Actually, think about who you donate to, and wait if you can. We need long-term support. Try to make sure you know where the money is going and that it’s spent wisely. I can promise that I will do everything I can to keep photos and news and results flowing out of Sarvodaya, but look around. They’re only accepting Mastercard now, but should be Visa in the morning. The website looks bummy but I’m on it. Sarvodaya is good people. Ask Sri Lankans. Plus Ammi and Thathi say so.
First, to my friends – Colombo is fine. And to anyone, if you would like to send assistance try
Sarvodaya: They’re a very good organization and they’re doing their best to help people who need clean water, food and shelter. They don’t have any online billing in place, but someone is working on that. They do give a Swift code and account number for money transfers.
ColomboPage is accepting donations online (Credit Card, via PayPal). They are also reputable. That’s probably a better option.
Tamil Rehabilitation Organization: I’m not as familiar with TRO, but I got the link off TamilNet. The East and Northeast have been hit the worst and they need assistance. The Northeast is rebel territory but at this point I don’t think anyone gives a shit
USD can make a big difference. $10 = Rs 1000. With Rs 1000 you could buy about 20 meals, or enough clothing for a family. Certainly potable water, which I think is the main concern.
I went downtown to stand on the beach. It was eerie. It’s the same spot I always sit, before I take the 177 bus home. It’s the same beach – from Mount Lavinia to Galle Face. When Thamindu was in town we spent a whole night there, his friends drinking Arrack and me drinking Coke. I bet people were sitting on the beach as usual, as I would be. And then they got swept away.
Colombo wasn’t hit that badly, being on the West side, away from Sumatra (apparently that whole island has now moved 100 ft to the Southwest). Off in the distance I did notice a bunch of big ships, container ships I think. In the Financial Times they talked about ships with up to 300 containers on board being swept away. When my family moved here all our possessions travelled in containers. That’s all I know about containers. The beach also smelled awful. I don’t know why that is, but I do know that the flooding has seriously fouled up a lot of drinking water.
There’s a railroad running along the shore. The land around it is government, so people built shanty towns there. Just corrugated tin and plywood. Travelling down to Achi’s house I could see them along the coast, stacked like cards, little kids running through the narrow alleys. All that must be washed away. [update: it is, see the WaPo photo gallery]
The East, being directly opposite the quake, was the worst hit. From the BBC I heard reports of the waters suddenly receding, sometimes beyond the horizon (is that possible? update: yes) and then the waves rushing in at 500 km an hour. Apparently the undertow would come in surges, strong then weak. People and property on the coastline in Ampara, Batti, Trinco, Matara, Galle, and Hambantota must have been just swept away.
“Survivors in Matara said they were first struck by a small tidal wave, and before they had time to recover from the shock, a 20 to 30 foot tsunami swept in wave after wave
Electricity, water supplies and communication lines were also severly disrupted, making it difficult to assess the toll of those dead, injured or missing. That is why the casualty toll ranged from 2425 to nearly 10,000 [I would guess higher].
Soon after noon yesterday, most of the angry and unmerciful waves had swept back to the sea, but some areas were still under three to six feet of water.” (Daily Mirror)
For general information Wikipedia has an excellent page on the ‘2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake‘
Slate has a really good press roundup, especially the Washington Post Articles. Their roundup of the International Press is also excellent. I recommend the Michael Dobbs account of swimming near Weligama and getting caught in the wave. WaPo also has an excellent description of what exactly happened tectonic-plate-wise, and a good photo gallery.
As the waters rose at an incredible rate, I half expected to catch sight of Noah’s Ark.
Instead of the ark, I grabbed a wooden catamaran that the local people used as a fishing boat. My brother jumped on the boat next to me. We bobbed up and down on the catamaran as the water rushed past us into the village beyond the road.
After a few minutes, the water stopped rising, and I felt it was safe to swim to the shore. What I did not realize was that the floodwaters would recede as quickly and dramatically as they had risen.
All of a sudden, I found myself being swept out to sea with startling speed. Although I am a fairly strong swimmer, I was unable to withstand the current. The fishing boats around me had been torn from their moorings, and were bobbing up and down furiously. Dobbs, Weligama – SL