Feature Article

Muslims on Tsunami hit southeast coast suffer heavily

[TamilNet, Friday, 31 December 2004, 15:42 GMT]
Muslims who live in densely populated villages along the southeastern coast of Sri Lanka suffered heavy casualties in Sunday’s Tsunami, with at least ten thousand killed. Rescue and relief efforts in Muslim towns and villages on the southeastern coast are hampered by lack of coordination and heavy rains. Seventy two Muslim schools were completely washed off and eighty five mosques were severely damaged, Secretary of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, Mr. Hassan Ali told TamilNet Thursday.

Meanwhile, Assistant Government Agent (AGA), A.L.M.Phaleel said the family of each person killed by the Tsunami in Kalmunai is being given 10, 000 rupees and that each injured person is being granted 5000 rupees.

Mr. S. M Izzadeen, a member of the local monitoring mission for the Batticaloa district told TamilNet Thursday that although Tamils and Muslims are coordinating relief and rescue work in many parts of Amparai and Batticaloa, more volunteers in the remoter areas of the southeast coast are urgently required. He said that according to latest figures at least ten thousand Muslims died in the Tsunami.

Liberation Tigers who are involved in rescue and relief operations in the region said that they are trying to coordinate their work with community organizations and authorities that are already working in Muslim towns and villages affected by the Tsunami.

Officially, the Sri Lankan government is in charge of rescue and relief operations in the Muslim areas devastated by the Tsunami on Sri Lanka’s east and southeastern coast. But Muslim politicians and journalists to whom TamilNet spoke, complained that Colombo is not doing enough to handle the crisis.

"Unless there is a proper coordinated mechanism involving all the major authorities like GoSL, LTTE and Muslims, it would be difficult to achieve a proper delivery of relief supply", a Muslim journalist from Batticaloa who toured the Tsunami affected areas of Amparai told TamilNet.

Around 6500 bodies recovered in the Muslim areas worst hit by the Tsunami, Sainthamaruthu Martuhamunai and Kalmunaikkudi, were buried and cremated until Thursday. More bodies are buried in the sand that came in with the Tsunami and under fallen buildings.

Everything up to 500 metres inland from the shore was flattened by the Tsunami in these areas.

In Maruthamunai, about 36 kilometres south of Batticaloa, the local government hospital was destroyed by the Tsunami, killing several members of the medical staff, including a doctor who was on duty at the time. Sayinthamaruthu Hospital too was damaged by the giant waves.

Kalmunaikudi, the densely populated Muslim suburb of Kalmunai town, 40 kilometres south of Batticaloa, suffered worst as the sea clogged the narrow streets, killing hundreds who were fleeing the giant wave.

The well known Kadakkaraipalli Mosque, which draws thousands of devotees to its annual flag festival, was also severely damaged by the Tsunami. More than three thousand were killed when this suburb was hit directly by two Tsunami waves.

Mr. Hasan Ali of the SLMC said some parents who saw their children being pulled away by the sea when the wave hit Ahadiya Maddhrasa in Ninthavur are in a state of severe trauma. Forty-two children were killed here on Sunday.

Tamils living near Kalmunaikudi said that some of their kith and kin that were killed in the area had been buried according to Muslim rites. Hundreds of unidentified bodies in the area were buried quickly by survivors the day after the Tsunami in accordance with the tenets of Islam, which stipulate that a Muslim should be buried within 24 hours of his or her death.

Further south, initial reports said that the Muslim coastal villages of Oluvil and Palamunai also suffered heavy casualties, although numbers were not known. The recently developed fisheries harbour in Oluvil has been wiped out. A lighthouse there was damaged by the waves.

The plight of Muslim fishing families in the area is not known. Most are believed dead.

The booming fisheries industry in Muslim areas on the island's southeast coast, particularly in Sayinthamaruthu, Maalikaikaddu, Oluvil and Pottuvil has been virtually wiped out by Sunday's Tsunami.

Hundreds of medium fibre glass fishing craft and the more expensive day boats were destroyed by the waves. Millions of ruppees of worth of fishing gear were lost.

Driven by a growing shortage of arable lands and the prospect of greater profit in in modernised fisheries, thousands of Muslims turned to the sea for their livelihood in the last two decades.

They were able to prosper soon as the Sri Lankan military placed severe restrictions on fishing in Tamil areas and because demand for fisheries exports in Colombo went up.

However, the mainstay of the Muslims' economy in Amparai, rice farming, was untouched by the calamities of Sunday's Tsunami as the thousands of acres of fertile paddy lie far from the reaches of the sea in the hinterlands of the southeastern coast.


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