SINGHAPURA MAITHRI GAMA: Reconstruction At Hambantota
The ancient chronicles of Sri Lanka record a number of instances when the sea rose up to engulf the Island. Very little information is available on the nature and extent of damage and loss of life, and there is no information on the location of earthquakes that led to tsunami events in Sri Lanka in the past. One of important note however occurred in the 2nd century BCE, over 2200 years ago. At that time the waters came within 6 km of Kelaniya, which is today 45 km away from the sea.
But nothing in history prepared Sri Lanka for the events of 26 December 2004 as the sea rushed onto the land around the entire circumference of the Island. In some places the waves rose up to 12 meters and ran over 1 km inland over areas occupied by vastly higher population and structural densities than 2200 years prior.
A magnitude 9.0 earthquake deep undersea off the cost of Indonesia had fractured the sea floor along a 1200 km fault  causing it to lift and fall by 15 m. The fracture line was parallel to the coast of Sri Lanka and an unimaginable volume of water was set racing at 600mph towards the Island. For most of its journey the wave was barely noticeable above the surface but as it reached the shallows it sucked the surf out from the beach exposing sea floor and reefs never seen before. Then it threw it all back onto the land. Few people who saw the wave coming lived to tell about it.
Nearly 31,000 people were killed instantly or later as a result of injuries. Over 500,000 people were left homeless  as their homes were knocked down or washed away. Schools and libraries, religious buildings, shops and factories, railways and roads were destroyed around the entire periphery of Sri Lanka. Not only lives and homes were lost but livelihoods too were destroyed. Fishermen, shop keepers, tourist workers and countless other people found themselves with nothing and no way to earn it back.
Where once there was a bustling seaside community, little remained on the afternoon of December 26th. Located on Sri Lanka’s southern most coast, an economically neglected part of Sri Lanka, Hambantota is a fishing village and home to roughly 12,000 people. Many of the residents are Malay Muslims. Besides fishing, the production of sea salt is a major industry.
At about 9:30am on Sunday, December 26th, an 8.8 meter wall of water inundated much of Hambantota. The natural sand dunes protected parts of the village but the low lying areas were utterly devastated, especially that near the entrance to Karagan Lewaya lagoon.
Thirteen hundred people died when the tsunami struck — nearly 7,000 more were injured. As well as residents, many people had come from nearby villages to sell vegetables in the Sunday market which had been recently relocated to the entrance of Karagan Lewaya. The lorries and buses that they were arriving on were washed into the lagoon along with most of the structures that had occupied approximately 100 hectares of the village. Most of the survivors were left with nothing — but the desire to return to the lives they once had.
Relief (Local Response)
The world would soon begin to show its compassion and caring but it would be many hours before the world would even know about the disaster and many more hours before aid could be mobilized. In these first hours and days of darkness it would be the people of Sri Lanka themselves who would answer the cries of their fellow citizens. Religious, ethnic and political differences were suspended as those spared from the immediate effects showed their great character in responding to the immense human suffering. Churches turned their sanctuaries into clinics and shelters, monks tore their robes to bandage wounds, common people prepared and distributed hot meals.
Bellanwila Rajamaha Vihara, through its Bellanwila Community Development Foundation (BCDF), began surveying the situation within hours. Members didn’t have to go far to find firsthand information. Just ten miles southwest of the temple, in Moratuwa, the chaos was readily apparent. While the world was still to learn of the disaster, BCDF was loading cooked food and water into vans and distributing them as they drove along the almost impa