For an island nation, the death that came from the sea on Boxing Day in 2004 was particularly traumatic and much effort has gone into rebuilding confidence about the ocean. There were 35,320 confirmed deaths and 6,300 missing people, while 98,000 homes and 75 per cent of the fishing fleet, the main livelihood of the coastal population, were also lost.
Sri Lanka – Been There

The fisherman’s tale

Photo by Jochem Wijnands

Sri Lanka – Been There The fisherman’s tale

“I can’t lose it all again,” says Sahan. A fisherman all his life, he lost his son and brother during the 2004 tsunami. Now left with two families to support, he also lost his livelihood when his trawler was washed away by the storm.

Meera Dattani
Meera Dattani Travel Writer

Sahan is repairing nets when I meet him on my walk along Pasikuda beach on Sri Lanka’s east coast. It’s the end of the day, the fishing boats have returned and fishermen are tending to their catch and trawlers. Sri Lanka lost three quarters of its fishing boats in the disaster, and the east coast was one of the hardest hit. A lot of aid money flowed into the country afterwards but little seems to have made its way to people like Sahan.

“My boat was on loan,” he says. “So I worked for someone else to pay it back. Less money and more hours. It took seven years. But now I have a new boat.” He smiles. Sahan has one of those seemingly tough, weather-beaten faces, and then his eyes soften. “I can’t bring my son or brother back, but I had to look after our families.”

He lives with several family members in a village a few miles away. “At least, I didn’t lose everything,” he says. “I’m lucky. Not everyone was.” With that, Sahan turns to work on his boat, his lifeline, running his rough fisherman's hands proudly over its already-weathered sides.

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The Unawatuna region, where these boys are playing football in the surf, was one of the hardest hit by the tsunami of December 26, 2004. In the south of Sri Lank, close to the popular tourist town of Galle, it suffered massive devastation and lost much of its infrastructure as well as beaches that were proclaimed among the world's most beautiful. Photo by Jochem Wijnands

Jochem Wijnands

Jochem Wijnands

NIKON D2X

Aperture
ƒ/8.5
Exposure
1/320
ISO
100
Focal
145 mm

The Unawatuna region, where these boys are playing football in the surf, was one of the hardest hit by the tsunami of December 26, 2004. In the south of Sri Lank, close to the popular tourist town of Galle, it suffered massive devastation and lost much of its infrastructure as well as beaches that were proclaimed among the world's most beautiful.

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