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Survivors stunned in the devastation of Sri Lanka's Kinniya island

By Kelum Bandara

Wednesday December 29, 04:27 PM  

KINNIYA ISLAND, Sri Lanka (AFP) 

KINNIYA ISLAND, Sri Lanka (AFP) - Survivors on the Sri Lankan island of Kinniya of monster waves that wreaked terrible destruction at the weekend are still stunned: they have buried their dead but hold back their tears.

(AFP Photo) - Survivors stunned in the devastation of Sri Lanka's Kinniya island (Wed 29 Dec, 05:27 AM)

And with aid still minimal, no hospital and little water, things are moving slowly for the those who escaped with little but their lives.

Life on the island, about 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of the capital Colombo, seems to have stopped the instant the huge waves brutally struck its shores.

At least 580 of Kinniya's 80,000 residents were killed or have disappeared; about 5,000 homes were destroyed or damaged; more than 30,000 people are without shelter, according to the local emergency unit.

Three-quarters of the boats that once linked the island to the rest of Sri Lanka were swept away by the waves, further hampering the arrival of any aid -- only three vehicles can each make crossing after a long hours of waiting.

The roads are impassable, blocked by broken walls, cables tangled in the palm trees, a smashed bridge, boats, rocks, all covered huges pools of brown water.

Along the beaches are houses, schools and mosques with their roofs smashed open or reduced to a pile of bricks.

The clean-up has not started. Eating, drinking and getting dressed are the only concerns of the thousands of survivors sheltering in 11 school buildings.

They have lost everything. They are grim but speak without complaining, without tears, still shocked by the horror of Sunday's quake-induced tsunamis

Around 3,500 families have moved into the Al Hira girls school and sleep on the same floor.

"My house was completely destroyed, there is nothing left but the bricks and knee-deep mud. I do not have anything left, everything was flooded," said Djamila Kallifullah, 28, a mother of three.

Officials are trying to help with donations and volunteers. On Tuesday they were able to distribute to each family five kilogrammes (11 pounds) of rice, half a kilogramme of lentils, some sugar, soap, a few clothes.

"We have enough for today but not for the coming days," says teacher G. Bassir, 26. The water on the island has been polluted and there are no stocks of drinking water, he said.

A baker, Ismail Marrikar, travelled eight hours to deliver 3,500 small loaves of bread and 1,500 bottles of water to survivors. He was mobbed. "They wanted to drink. There was not enough for everyone," said the 29-year-old.

There is not even enough water for washing with threat of water-borne diseases ever-present and the island's only hospital destroyed by the ocean.

The hospital beds are piled up in a corner, pushed there by the powerful wave, the mattresses are sodden, medicines drenched.

At the time of the assault, there were about 80 patients in the hospital. Two-thirds of them are dead and there are only six doctors on the whole island, said to Saraf Deen, coordinator of the emergency unit.

A temporary clinic has been set up in a college but it lacks practically everything and cannot accept patients.

"We have some analgesics, antibiotics and drips, a little milk for the babies. But not a bed, not an ambulance, not a generator, not a container of drinkable water, no surgical equipment," said Deen.

"Yesterday two people died because we were not able to transport them."

Some 2,500 people were injured in the disaster. "They are mainly superficial injuries but they can become infected, there are complications, sudden fevers, and we have the first cases of acute gastroenteritis. We expect an outbreak of diarrhea," said a 32-year-old doctor named Ajeedh.

In the waiting room, Falila, 32, held her one-year-old baby who had a chest infection.

"I was at home when the water attacked us," she said. "I could not find the children, I swam and then grabbed onto a tree. This one, I managed to catch and save. The other, aged three, is dead."


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