swim to alley fears
[March 2, 2005 -
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
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
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
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.
competition was organized by the Old Boys Association of the Dharmasoka
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Date: March 2, 2005 - 10.20 GMT