Tsunami Survivor's Diary: People return to live by the shore - despite the ban

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The Independent Online

In the six weeks since the Indian Ocean tsunami devastated the region, most people have been going to their homes during the day and then staying with relatives inland at night. But now people in Dickwella have started to stay at their homes permanently.

In the six weeks since the Indian Ocean tsunami devastated the region, most people have been going to their homes during the day and then staying with relatives inland at night. But now people in Dickwella have started to stay at their homes permanently.

It seems people have decided to ignore the ruling that no rebuilding can take place within 100 metres of the shore. They don't want to leave their communities and start a new life elsewhere. The older people, in particular, are saying they won't move.

The fishermen here - who were the group worst affected by the tsunami - are also refusing to go. The transport costs involved in living away from the coast would make it impossible for them to earn their living. The authorities keep promising that something will be done. I don't think it will.

I have seen foreign military forces working in the area over the past week. I know they have been in the Galle district, but this is the first we've seen of them. In addition to putting up tents, they've been building some temporary huts for people. These are made out of wood, with coconut branches for the roof. They're far from being a home, but they are better than the tents and I know people in the village are really grateful.

A team of French doctors has just set up a clinic in the town. They are very welcome, even though most of the injuries aren't too serious, because Sri Lankan people like being treated by a foreigner - I think they trust their medical skills more.

Further around the coast, lots of doctors have visited the town of Hambantota, but my friend there tells me they are not bringing the right medicine. Many volunteers have come over here with good intentions, but they haven't done their research first. One European team arrived with thousands of pounds' worth of medicine, but almost all of it was useless. People need simple things like plasters, anti-fungal creams and dressings.

The coastal region past Matara, where I work, seems to have received very little foreign assistance, despite all the pledges. I think the international media have focused too much on Galle. All the TV stations broadcast from there, but they fail to mention that only a few miles down the road, it looks like the tsunami hit yesterday.

But the story that has everyone talking is the case of "Baby 81" over in Kalmunai, in the east. Nine different couples have claimed the four-month-old child, who was found covered in mud and taken to the hospital, is theirs. They've had to go to court and give DNA samples to find out the truth. It shows the desperation of people are who have lost loved ones.

This diary will appear monthly from now on

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