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
Sport
Super BowlAfter Katy Perry madness it's back to The Independent's live coverage of Super Bowl 49!
News
See what Twitter had to say about the first half of the Super Bowl
News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium - they breathe better air, and eat better food, when they're not making beans on toast for their kids

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium

They breathe better air, eat better food, take better medicine
A generation of dropouts failed by colleges

Dropout generation failed by colleges

£800m a year wasted on students who quit courses before they graduate
Entering civilian life 'can be like going into the jungle' for returning soldiers

Homeless Veterans appeal

Entering civilian life can be like going into the jungle
Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Fifty Shades of Grey director on bringing the hit to the screen
Shazam! Story of the $1bn 'what's that song?' app

Shazam: Story of the $1bn 'what's that song?' app

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch