Colombo, Sri Lanka …. [Rick McEdward/ANN Staff]
Nations in Southern Asia are reeling in the wake of a devastating tsunami that swamped coastlines from Indonesia to Africa Dec. 26.
Hundreds of fishing villages have been decimated, towns have been destroyed and many tourist resorts flooded. It is estimated that more than 50,000 people perished due to the crushing waves that struck following the 9.0 Richter scale earthquake with the epicenter near Northern Indonesia. Thousands more are feared dead, according to earlier reports.
Sri Lanka’s hardest hit areas are in the South of the island and along the East Coast. With over one million people now homeless in Sri Lanka, many are waiting for relief without shelter, water, food, or adequate clothing. For the first 36 hours after the tsunami, relief efforts were hampered because some roads were entirely cut off. By Tuesday morning small byroads were being used to bring needed relief supplies to those in the affected areas.
The people of Sri Lanka are pouring out to help with relief efforts.
Television stations have organized relief drop-off depots in most villages, and people are emptying supermarket shelves to provide dry rations for those who are homeless. Delivery trucks have been volunteered to drive supplies to the worst hit areas, and virtually every village in the Island is working to save lives.
Two separate relief efforts coordinated by Adventists are under way:
one is for the general public through ADRA International; the second is to help reestablish the lives of church members who have lost everything in the flood. That effort is being conducted by a committee appointed to deal with the disaster.
ADRA International has committed US $500,000 of private funds as part of the agency’s initial response to the disaster.
“At this time, ADRA is on the ground in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and India responding to and assessing the damage,” said Frank Teeuwen, bureau chief for disaster preparedness and response for ADRA International.
In Phuket Province, Thailand, ADRA is working with a local hospital to distribute personal care packages and provide relief assistance to nearly 3,000 people. In India, ADRA is providing shelter, blankets, drinking water, water containers, chlorine tablets, and mosquito nets.
Non-food items (like blankets, clothing, and shelter materials) are being distributed in Indonesia and the Andaman Islands.
“We are confident that our donors will respond and ADRA will be able to provide even more assistance from private donations,” said Byron Scheuneman, vice president and chief financial officer for ADRA International.
While ADRA addresses the pressing needs in the country at large, the Seventh-day Adventist church in Sri Lanka is focusing its energy on locating and aiding members who have been affected by the disaster.
About 20 Adventist congregations in Sri Lanka are located in coastal
areas. Most of these, however, were evacuated during the time of the
According to Pastor W.D. Anthony, president of the church in Sri Lanka, “in the coastal town of Thoduwawa, many members went inland and stayed overnight in the Adventist church in the village of Diganwala.”
He added, “at this time it appears the hardest hit Adventist church is the Kalmunai church.” The Kalmunai church is located on the East Coast.
The entire city was devastated by the rushing waves. The pastor, P.
Jeyraman, was in the town with a friend when the tidal wave hit. They ran inland for 10 miles, not knowing how far the floods would come.
Meanwhile, a large truck was thrown on top of Pastor Jeyraman’s house, which was also looted.
In Kalmunai most of the church members’ houses have been lost or badly damaged, and so far they know of four members who have died in the floods. According to Anthony, district pastor John Appadurai has attempted to visit Kalmunai but could not because the bridges along the road were out.
“We have been in touch with most of the other areas, and at this time it appears that some have lost houses, boats, and all the furnishings and personal belongings in their houses,” Anthony said, “There is one Global Mission pioneer that is unaccounted for in the Southern town of Tangalle, but since transportation and communication have been cut off to that area it impossible to know whether he and his wife and child are safe.”
Tangalle was completely engulfed in water, and is one of the sites where some of the many foreign tourists died during the tidal wave.
Two Adventist hospitals in separate countries have opened their doors to help victims of the disaster. The Lakeside Adventist Hospital in Kandy, Sri Lanka, has opened a dry rations and clothes collection center at the hospital, according to Percy Dias the hospital president.
And the Penang Adventist Hospital in Malaysia immediately set up a control center and holding area at the hospital’s lecture hall to assist in the relief of the victims of the island’s first tsunami attack.
“Our hospital team came together as soon as we received word about the disaster,” said the President and Chief Executive Officer, Teddric Jon Mohr.
Copyright (c) 2004 by Adventist News Network.