The end of the Trinco-Batti Road
The road from Trinco to Batti is really fucking bad, and then it ends. The flood has washed everything away and it’s like evolving backwards. First you start in a van from Trinco, except a tire blows near Eachchilampattu. The van limps along until it gets to town, but this is really Jeep territory. From there it’s shoes. Then the road is flooded, so it’s bare feet. Then the road is a river, so it’s either boat or swim. By the time you get to Batti, I presume you’d be crawling naked through the jungle. After the rains, entire parts of Sri Lanka have been washed off the map.
Trinco has always had bad roads. Sometimes they seem to get better, then they get bad again. The picturesque and naturally blessed town is somewhat immune to development. These rains, however, have done something else. Trinco and Batticaloa are major eastern towns and one would presume there’d be a road there. That interland, however, was once LTTE territory and it shows. There was never nothing much, and what was is now washed away.
The concrete culvert’s remain, but the earth on either side has been eroded, leaving a sharp edge that painfully exfoliates the underbelly of any passing car. If you can pass these small bridges, the road itself is pitted and bumpy all the way. There is no respite from the suspension and bone jarring rattle. It’s either a dirt road with pits or a gravel road with multiple vibrations. The going is slow and a passing bicycle grins and points at our rapidly deflating tire. An ambulance passes the other way. They have at least two hours before reaching a hospital.
We limp into town and the Divisional Secretary shows us photos of the land we passed through. It was all underwater. He’s shown in an orange life preserver, directing work and relief. He says they arrived at office on boats.
Further inland, where tsunami and war refugees have been resettled, the van cannot proceed at all. The road simply drops off into insurmountable pits. We walk from here. A bit further on, even shoes give out as we have to wade barefoot through knee-high flooding. Then, finally, even feet cannot carry us. The large, concrete bridge which leads to other villages has simply been washed away. Someone has tied a rope across and small boats are ferrying people to the other side. A pregnant woman gets off and walks past us. Who knows how far she came, but she still has to walk to the road, wait for a bus and brave the bumpy hours to town.
This is essentially the story of the flood. Unlike the tsunami, which affected rich and poor alike, these rains have hit small rural farmers the worst. Also, unlike the tsunami, the damage has taken place in already invisible areas. The place we went is about four and a half hours from Trinco. It’s an hour from the nearest Coca-Cola. But people live there. People live further in. Those are the people whose livelihoods have been washed away.