Picture of a happy family that is now just a sad memory

They look a fine family, but Mohammed Samsudena stares sadly at the formal portrait taken at a happy family wedding in Sri Lanka. The happiness has gone.

Now the picture will always remind him of the dreadful cost of the devastation caused by the Boxing Day tsunami: only three of the eight people in the picture are alive.

The others are missing, presumed dead.

Mr Samsudena and his 29-year-old wife Nirusha, from Harrow in west London, said yesterday that they have lost a total of 40 extended family members, who lived in and around the coastal resort town of Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka.

Among the relatives missing - believed dead - are Mr Samsudena's eight-year-old niece, Farha, and four-year-old nephew, Raflan.

Mr Samsudena, a 36-year-old petrol station sales assistant, said: "There's no chance they have survived; we have given up hope of them being found alive."

The couple are making desperate efforts to contact other relatives, phoning every hour, but communication is nearly hopeless, given the scale of the devastation.

Mr Samsudena said: "The tsunami has caused chaos and it is almost impossible to contact my family. But when we do get through, it's just more bad news."

On Tuesday morning he spoke to one relative who told him the body of his sister-in-law, Fatima, had been found. Mr Samsudena added sadly: "She was only 18 years old."

Another Sri Lankan living in Harrow has suffered similar losses. Moulana Mazahir says his wife's family has lost more than 50 close members to the deluge.

Mr Mazahir, 45, a chef, said his only solace is that his wife and three sons, who were on holiday in the town at the time, escaped because they left three hours before the tsunami struck.

He called their survival a miracle, but said they are terrified. Mr Mazahir said his "inconsolable" wife is begging him to fly to Sri Lanka. "She's terrified too; she has lost almost all her family. Their homes have been destroyed and their bodies are being found.

"I can't imagine what it was like; within two or three minutes everything changed. My life will never be the same.

"I'm heartbroken; it has devastated my family. At least 55 have died," he said

Mr Mazahir praised the courage of his older brother, Seyed Hameed, who is burying his family as the bodies are found. He added: "I feel helpless here, there is nothing I can do."

On Tuesday night, about 100 people gathered at the Sri Lanka Educational, Cultural and Welfare Foundation in north London to pray for victims of the disaster. Sisira Gunawardena, 49, from Kenton in Middlesex, said the group were putting together an aid package of food and clothing to send to the stricken island.

Mr Gunawardena, a bank worker, said his 27-year-old cousin was washed to his death on Sunday when the Kalutara region of Sri Lanka was battered by the waves.

Mr Gunawardena said: "Everybody is very sad and they are still in shock.

"We haven't had any experience of this in the past in Sri Lanka. Whole houses have been washed away."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map