Star helps forgotten victims of tsunami

A RAY of hope has been delivered amid the squalor and deprivation that remains after the killer tsunamis devastated a Sri Lankan fishing community.The Evening Star has made a cash donation to help the hundreds of people in Negombo on Sri Lanka's west coast who have been dubbed The Forgotten Victims.

A RAY of hope has been delivered amid the squalor and deprivation that remains after the killer tsunamis devastated a Sri Lankan fishing community.

The Evening Star has made a cash donation to help the hundreds of people in Negombo on Sri Lanka's west coast who have been dubbed The Forgotten Victims.

The children may be starving and living in tent city refugee camps but you will never have heard of their plight.

Galle and Batticaloa have become household names in the west because of the graphic images of death and human suffering that poured into our homes on television news and in the papers.


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But because nobody was killed in Negombo, it is a corner of Sri Lanka the world has forgotten.

Not a penny of aid has been received from the Sri Lankan government and only a few local aid agencies have rolled up their sleeves to help.

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The Government cash and international aid is being spent on the prosperous south coast where the TV cameras spent much of the first week of the tsunami disaster.

But in Negombo, the suffering of the families who earn their living from fishing is still as raw and their needs as desperate as the survivors in the south.

More than 100 homes were destroyed and hundreds of people were made homeless when the giant waves enveloped Negombo on Boxing Day.

The Evening Star's cash will go a long way in a village where a meal for two at a nice hotel costs just £3.

It will be used to repair homes only damaged by the waves and restore sanitation to those properties not flattened by the sea.

But Negombo desperately needs more help and as such Father Clement Rozairo, priest of the town's St Sebastian Church, is struggling to cope with a community where hundreds of his parishioners have lost everything.

He said: "Most of the people affected are fishermen who rely on the sea to make their living.

"They live mainly on the beach in wooden houses which were just flattened when the waves came.

"These people know the sea because they work with it and they have survived.

"But because God smiled on us that day and did not take anybody away, we have been forgotten by the world.

"My people are starving because they have lost everything they own. Their houses have been destroyed, their possessions swept away and most importantly their industry has been devastated.

"A lot of them lost their boats and nets but even those who manage to get out and fish cannot sell their catches at the moment because people are afraid to eat the fish due to all the bodies that were washed into the sea.

"It will take us many months to rebuild this community and we desperately need some money to help make this happen.

"We need to get new homes built as soon as we possibly can but the Government has forbidden rebuilding them on the beach.

"And as we are in a tourist area, the price of land around here is very expensive. It will take many millions of rupees to rebuild this community."

Father Rozairo said of the Evening Star's donation: "It is so nice to see that your newspaper cares enough to do this."

"The money will go a long way towards helping my people have a future."

Until Boxing Day, Magratet Fernando, a fisherman's wife, lived a simple life in a straw hut on the beach at Negombo.

But the tsunami left the first 250m of the Negombo coastline six foot in water and her home was destroyed.

She said: "We are desperate.

"We are hungry, my husband cannot earn any money and we have not got a home anymore.

"Our government is not helping us so we are having to lower ourselves to begging. What your newspaper has done is so wonderful. I can't thank you enough.

"All I ask is that you do not forget us and our suffering."

n. To find out how best to help people in these devastated countries contact the Disasters Emergency Committee on 0870 6060900 or check the website at www.dec.org.uk

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