Tangalled Up in Blue
Trip Start Oct 20, 2004
44Trip End Apr 26, 2005
Our first week in Colombo was spent helping the Singapore YMCA to implement a volunteer program to assist the Sri Lankan YMCAs in the eastern districts of the country. By the weekend, things had pretty well wrapped up, so we accepted the offer of a friend of a friend to take a break from Colombo to visit his current relief efforts in Tangalle.
The six-hour bus ride to Tangalle was a real eye-opener. The road is a narrow, bumpy artery that stretches along the beautiful western and southern coastlines of Sri Lanka. However, the entire drive is strewn with boats and debris, reflecting varying degrees of the tsunami's damage. From the bus we saw countless uprooted trees, fragments of homes, palm trunks without fronds, foundations of buildings, pieces of boats, overturned headstones, wrecked cars, mattresses, and white flags of mourning
And the country is receiving assistance. Refugee camps are set up throughout the region; international flags and organization names don the tents, water tanks, and supplies. Local and foreign volunteers work long hours to clear the beaches and land, as the wave destroyed roadways, train tracks, and buildings up to a kilometer or more from the coast (in parts of the East is has been reported that the damage extends as far as four kilometers inland).
Tangalle, like the rest of the western coast, is currently in the cleanup stage of the relief efforts. Fortunately, parts of Tangalle sit high above the water on bluffs and thus were spared by the tsunami; however, other areas of Tangalle are quite devastated. We were taken to Mawella and a few other small beach villages to view the damage and to see the programs underway to clean and reconstruct the communities
We stuck around Tangalle for a few days and helped with some small cleaning projects, but quickly realized that the area is, relatively speaking, pretty well off. Tangalle and the surrounding villages are receiving an abundance of attention and funding, and is being overseen by a group of expatriates that are keen to see the communities succeed. Since there wasn't a particular need for our services in Tangalle, we decided to return to Colombo.