SRI LANKANS carry a canoe in the cleanup following the tsunamis.
SRI LANKANS carry a canoe in the cleanup following the tsunamis.

Fearful fishermen shun sea

By MARK FURLER

THE fishermen whose livelihoods have been wiped out by the sea which once sustained them are vowing to never return to the water.

And many Sri Lankans say they will not eat fish again because they fear they are poisoned or worst still the fish may have been living off the flesh of human remains.

As we talk to fisherman after fisherman in the ruined rubble of Karativu and Kalmunai in Sri Lanka's east, there was a clear message to the Sri Lankan government ? find us another industry outside of fishing to rebuild our lives.

Some locals have described the Indian Ocean tsunami water as like acid which was very hot on the day of the tsunami. In certain places it was black, just like acid, one relays.

As we arrive in Karativu after a 10-hour trip to the region from Colombo, locals gather quickly to tell their stories.

On the trip is a New York Newsday correspondent, a reporter and photographer from the Chicago Tribune, a crew from Channel 9 and ourselves.

The American reporters have covered major stories like the war in Iraq, civil conflicts, famines, floods and other catastrophes. But even they are stunned as they survey the devastation.

In one part of the village alone there is a cleared area of about a kilometre long and several hundred metres deep.

None of the houses remain, while every fishing boat was lost, damaged or destroyed.

These houses were not just timber. They were built from thick concrete with tiled roofs. But the 10-metre tsunami waves reduced them to rubble.

Boats can be seen jammed through the windows of houses while light poles, complete with the concrete slabs that held them in place, have been uprooted.

A succession of huge palm trees are also pulled out of the ground, while a beautiful coloured temple is destroyed, as is more than half of the local school.

Scattered around the rubble are reminders of normal lives ? clothing, chairs, and a loveheart shaped clock with no hands left to tell of the moment when the tsunami struck on Boxing Day.

Even as we talk to residents, there is genuine fear there will be another disaster.

As the sun starts to go down, some want to go home. They don't like being out at night, especially near the ocean, because they fear they will not see the waves coming.

The reason many of them are alive is because they heard cries of 'The sea is coming, the sea is coming' and started running for their lives.

In the aftermath of the tsunami, rumours run rampant through the community. Residents tell of international doctors warning not to eat fish again because it has been contaminated.

In hotels that you go to there is no fish, another says.

Of course, it is not true, with many locals and tourists happily eating fish on the menu in the major hotels in Colombo. The local daily newspaper also carries a story quoting health officials saying it is safe to eat fish. But authorities face a long road to convince the locals to either fish or eat fish again.

Fisherman Suriyamoorthi, who clings to 18-month-old son Yathur as he watches the flooded inland lake opposite his refugee camp, lost two sisters, a sister-in-law and her three children in the tsunami. He does not want to go back into the sea for one and a half years, an interpreter re- lays. He is very much afraid.



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