December 28, 2004

The Asian Tsunami

I would like to firstly thank everyone who showed concern about my whereabouts. Happily, I can report that I am fine.

I arrived in Kanyakumari two hours after the Tsunami hit the area. Kanyakumari is the southern most point of India, and was hit particularly badly, due to the channel that Sri Lanka and India make. I had been on the train for most of the day, so I was oblivious to the news, and had no idea that a disaster had hit the region.

Carrying my heavy backpacks, I headed into the small town on foot, in search of the Hotel Maadhi. A gentleman came up to me and immediately wanted to guide me. As is routine, I was suspicious of his motives, assuming that he wanted either money or was trying to take me to another hotel. Anyway, I followed him down into the small village by the sea, through tiny winding streets. As we got closer to the sea, he gestured to me, and I was surprised to see electricity pylons laying over, wooden planks strewn about and blocking the paths, as well as people carrying out belongings from very damaged homes.

He helped me clamber over the debris, supporting me when I lost my balance. I was confused by the wreckage, and it crossed my mind that perhaps a tsunami had hit. Of course, I had no idea when this may have happened.

Finally, I reached my hotel. When I turned on the television, I was surprised to find Indian news channels reporting about the terrible calamity. I quickly found the BBC, and was shocked to learn why the village just below my room had been destroyed.

During the night, whilst the moon shone above, I could see people walking up and down the beach searching for people. Periodically, a military helicopter flew past. Perhaps the worst part, was hearing people crying out names repeatedly from the beach throughout the night.

The next morning, the receptionist at the front desk, informed me that around 250 people had died in the village, and that over 700 had died in the region. These were, of course, the early assessments. As all of us our sadly witnessing, the death toll is continuing to rise by the hour.

I am currently in Madurai, but I will write about that at another time. Thank you, once again, for your kind thoughts. It really is appreciated. My prays go to all of those who have been affected by this tragedy.

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