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Arugam Bay: Popular tourist destination washed away in Sri Lanka

Wednesday December 29,
Copyright 2004 Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Deutsche Presse-Agentur
The popular tourist destination and windsurfing location of Arugam Bay, near the town of Pottuvil, on Sri Lanka's eastern coast, which drew thousands of tourists after the truce between Tamil rebels and government forces, has been washed away in the tsunami that has claimed more than 22,000 lives.

Villagers in a handful of fishing hamlets left on the southern coast, 340 kilometres east of the capital, describe how their family members were washed out to sea.

Abdulla Moulana, a 60-year-old hotel worker, said he has lost six family members including his wife and three children, and his house is one of 300 which have been washed away.

The Sri Lankan military flew the first batch of journalists into the area Wednesday which had been inaccessible since Sunday's disaster.

Moulana said he had seen more than 20 bodies being pulled out to sea. The victims included both locals and foreigners and many others from Colombo who had been spending the weekend there.

He said: "The area was packed because this is the best season for wind surfing. This was popular among the British and German tourists. During the season, this area is usually packed."

"Almost all tourist guest houses were wiped out within a flash. My family suffered the same fate. I managed to escape as I was away from my home", said Moulana who has yet to recover from the shock. His own house no longer stands.

Vehicles parked outside guest houses and hotels have been swept 1.5 kilometres from their original parking space. Journalists were shown bodies being retrieved at regular intervals. Seven were recovered on Wednesday.

Nearly 100 tourists have been killed in the disaster and more than 1,000 have either been airlifted out or evacuated by road. Many have already returned to their home countries and others are preparing to depart.

The disaster is also wreaking havoc in the tourist industry and nearly 50 tourist hotels in popular tourist destinations along the southern coast have been closed down.

"The impact on the tourist industry is going to to be very heavy, as many tourists would like to avoid the south for the next few months in view what has happened", said Ranjith de Silva, a hotel manager in southern Sri Lanka.

Tourism Ministry Secretary P. Ramanujan expressed confidence that tourists will return to the country after a few months.

"They will understand that this is a natural disaster and return later', he said.

But officials said it would take at least six months to renovate hotels and restore the infrastructure on the southern coast and in the tourist industry.

Sri Lanka had hoped to attract nearly half a million tourists by the end of 2004.


December 29, 2004 
 

WWW Virtual Library - Sri Lanka