Rusted train a tragic reminder of Sri Lanka tsunami toll
TELWATTA: There has been no train to Sri Lanka’s southern Telwatta railway station for a month.
The last one that took passengers from the small village on the country’s southern shore never reached its destination. As it chugged through on Dec. 26, a deadly tsunami hit, sweeping away carriages filled with an unknown number of terrified, screaming passengers. “I saw the train compartment roll and roll. It was the most horrible sight of my life,” said housewife Neetha (Eds: one name), who was clinging to the roof of her mother’s flooded house nearby after the first wave hit.
Soon after she was swept away, too. “I heard this big noise and then the screams,” she said, standing next to the train a month after the disaster that killed nearly 40,000 people in Sri Lanka and possibly approaching 300,000 on the shores of the Indian Ocean.
The carriages, now rusting and most of them a tangled mess of iron and wires, have been put back on the tracks after hundreds of rotting bodies were taken out.
More than 1,000 people are believed to have died when the force of the tsunami pushed the train off the track.
The train service between the capital Colombo and the southern town of Galle has been suspended since the tsunami hit, as the track was swept away in various places and new ones are still being laid.
A monk at a Buddhist temple near the crash site said the hundreds of people from a nearby village who took refuge there after the first wave crashed ashore refused to go out to help those caught in the wrecked train.
“They were too scared that another wave would hit,” said Pittugala Sumana, the saffron-robed chief priest of the village.
Sumana said he and another 10 people went out to help, wading through deep water and debris, but could reach only two of the train’s eight carriages. reuters