Sea swim to alley fears
[March 2, 2005 - 10.20 GMT] 

It is a little over two months since the word tsunami entered the local vocabulary. In Japanese tsunami means “harbor wave,” but   tsunamis have little to do with tides. They emerge from the open ocean and pack enough energy to smash towns and drown the unwary.  Sri Lankans who lost nearly 31,000 people to the tsunami know all about it.


Now people are beginning to rebuild their lives and the world has pledged to continue its assistance. But the islanders are trying hard to overcome the fear of the ocean, firmly etched in their minds. 


The drive along the Southern coastline is still eerie; scores of destroyed homes on both sides of the road and just beyond the calm seas. The blue ocean appears appealing but sea bathers on the beaches are sparse. The tsunami has driven them away.


On Sunday 27th February, the first ever sea-swim competition after the tsunami was organized in Ambalangoda a town 80 kilometers south of Colombo. Around 400 swimmers participated, some of them barely 10 years old. The Prime Minister was there to cheer on the swimmers.

Among the competitors was nine-year-old Kumudi. She had seen the tsunami striking her house.

“ I am not scared of the sea anymore. I will swim,” Kumudi said.

Some of the competitors had come from other parts of the country. The local fishermen who still have their boats intact joined the organizers in escorting the swimmers and picking them up if they could not continue.

Twenty-three year-old Bandula said he had no fear.  “I am not scared of drowning. There are people from the army, navy and the police to save us. Moreover if we do not take the initiative other people will never be able to get over their fears”

People cheered the swimmers as the competition began. A young boy who wanted to give up midway was encouraged by the fishermen to reach the coast. 

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse who was there among the cheering spectators said,  “This competition will remove the fear of the tsunami and the sea that our people are suffering from. We need to have more such events”. He asserted that the country was fast recovering from the impact of the tsunami.

The country is suffering from a collective hydrophobia after the tsunami. The people might be able to recover from their physical losses quickly, but it would take a long time for them overcome the psychological trauma. 

The sea-swim competition was organized by the Old Boys Association of the Dharmasoka College, Ambalangoda.







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Last Updated Date: March 2, 2005 - 10.20 GMT


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