Natural Disasters in Sri Lanka

By: Pon Kulendiren

When you look back at the history of natural disasters in Sri Lanka one will be surprised to know that the island is located in a dangerous position not far away from the two fault lines, one in Indian Ocean and the other in the Bay of Bengal. The volcanic mountain named Karakatoa located in the Sunda strait near Sumatara erupted on 27th August 1887 at 10.00 am, generated a massive 40 meters tidal waves which killed more than 36450 people. At 1.30pm on the same day the waves hit Pothuvil, Panama, Hambantota, Galle in southeastern coastal towns of Sri Lanka . The mountain is located in unique area at transition between frontal subduction of Indian-Australian plate and Eurasia plate to the south of Java and oblique subduction to the west of Sumatra. The recent Tsunami originated by the undersea earthquake on the northern tip of this fault line has again hit Sri Lanka. It is incorrect to say that Sri Lanka is free from natural disasters like Cyclone, Tsunamis, Floods and Earth slides etc. History has its records. In December 1964 tidal wave caused by cyclone which ripped through Northern part of Sri Lanka wiped out Dhanuskodi in Rameswaram Island from the map. A passenger train which left Rameswaram Road station near about the midnight of 22nd was washed off by the storm surges sometimes later, nearly all passengers traveling in the train meeting water graves. The Pamban bridge connecting Mandapam and Rameswaram island was also washed away by the storm surges which could be 3-5 meters high.

One time Sri Lanka and India were one piece of land. It is the tidal waves caused by earthquakes that formed the islands near Puttalam and also around Jaffna Peninsula. Now a question is paused whether the Sedhu Samudram project for deepning the gulf of Mannar could generate tremors and tidal waves in the North Western part of the island. A visit to Nagar Kovil area near Vallipuram temple in the Northeastern part of Jaffna Peninsula one could see sand dunes. It was caused by tidal waves. Even the five famous Siva temples (Eeswarams) namely, Thiruketheeswaram, Koneswaram, Naguleswaram in the North, Munesswaram in the west and Thondeswaram near Tangalle in the south were built before the birth of Christ to protect the island from natural disasters such as tidal waves, cyclone. History also records that Jaffna peninsula was once called Manalthidal, which means sand dunes. During the rule of queen Kalyani, western coast underwent a surge from the sea. Kelani River was named after her. She was an arrogant woman. It was the curse on her rule that caused the disaster by which the sea encroached in the Mutuwal and Kelani area. It looks as if history is repeating itself. One of the characteristics of the tidal wave is that before it reaches the seashore, the sea recedes quickly. The marine life gets exposed. But suddenly the Tide comes up with tremendous force.

The Sri Lankan government was wasting its resources on war to maintain supremacy and suppress the minorities and instigating religious hatred. It should have focused building financial resources and a disaster plan to meet such disasters and protecting the people and infrastructure. The economy of the country which was limping due to war is now badly hit, mainly the tourist industry. It is now time for all communities in Sri Lanka , affected by this disaster to learn a lesson, give up violence, and build the country and live in peace. Many people view that when dharma fails nature steps in.

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