Tsunami survivor's diary: Return of rains brings fresh hope

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The Independent Online

Though it's been three months since the tsunami, people are still terrified of the sea. They are convinced another wave could hit at any time since the sea has become rougher since the disaster.

Though it's been three months since the tsunami, people are still terrified of the sea. They are convinced another wave could hit at any time since the sea has become rougher since the disaster.

Children think it's a bad omen, despite their elders' reassurances. There have been other odd changes. Near my work in Matara, a giant crack has opened in the ground next to my friend's house, and she fears her home could be swallowed up. University geologists are investigating. Another friend says a lake near his home in Galle used to be brown and muddy and full of rubbish - but now it's a perfect blue, and at night you can see the reflection of the moon. People are coming from all around to see it, and there are new types of fish living there.

Since the tsunami, people have been really paranoid about any changes in their environment, and ready to believe anything they read in the newspapers. But the story of the lake shows the event was not all about damage. It's changed some things for the better.

The hot, dry weather of the past few months made things hard for those still living in tents on the beach, but now it's started raining at night, and we need rain to make the plants grow again here.

Most of them were damaged or destroyed in the tsunami, particularly the younger plants. Close to the beach, only the palm trees survived - they are such amazing plants. The rumours that salt water had gone into the ground and poisoned them have proved untrue.

The fresh growth is bringing a sense of new life. I think plants play an important role in the minds of our people because Sri Lanka is such a green country - and the tsunami took part of that away. But Sri Lankans are also very superstitious, and they believe that ghosts now inhabit many of the coastal areas. People living in tents say they can hear screaming at night. Many children won't even look at the sea.

Some reconstruction of houses has started in Dickwella, but it isn't on any organised basis, just people building themselves basic wooden huts that leak in the rain.

While the government keeps talking about a grand plan, I don't see it happening. Relief work is mainly the result of individual efforts, such as the people at work who are organising a cricket tournament and charity walk to try to raise money for new housing in the town.

It's strange that so much foreign aid was pledged, yet people are not seeing much of the money. Of course things are going to improve, but at this rate it looks like it's going to take a very long time.

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