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Updates From Tsunami Striken Area

Aired January 9, 2005 - 15:00   ET


HUGH RIMINTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is CNN, welcome back. We're coming to you live from Beruwala in southern Sri Lanka, I'm Hugh Riminton, as we continue our close look at the tsunami disaster and its aftermath.
In this half hour we're going to be looking at a number of issues as they continue to develop. There is cyclonic weather system in the bay of Bangor, we'll be keeping a close watch on that, what impact it may or may not have to countries that are already struggling particularly along their coastlines, certainly one to watch.

Also aid, how does it get through? Who best is placed to deliver it? We'll look a little bit at that later on. In terms of the international effort, the United Nation's Secretary General Kofi Annan has been continuing his tour of the region, he arrived a short time ago in the Maldives Islands. This is an island chain scattered cross the western Indian Ocean. It is one of the lowest land groupings in the world, an average altitude of 2.4 meters and plainly was severely damaged by the tsunami as it went through. Kofi Annan arriving a short time ago to have a look at the damage and also the efforts to rebuild that country's infrastructure. Mr. Annan had previously been in Sri Lanka, where he had an intense period looking at the damage that was done, talking to people, looking at areas that had been hardest hit, particularly in the south of Sri Lanka. CNN's diplomatic editor Richard Roth was with Kofi Annan as he toured Sri Lanka, filed this report.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kofi Annan is on a tsunami-themed humanitarian journey, but politics is never far from the surface in any country. Sunday morning the U.N. secretary general met with the leader of at that Tamil Tiger Autonomy Movement, locked in dispute for years w/with the government.

The session came one day after Annan was barred from touring Tamil-held parts of northern Sri Lanka. Annan urged U.N. agencies to take advantage of the crisis to ease tensions. Advice from non- governmental humanitarian nations brought a warning, should the government try to isolate Tamil Tigers in relief operations. Annan discussed his inability to go to the north disaster with Sri Lanka's president.

CHANDRIKA KUMARATUNGA, PRESIDENT SRI LANKA: The problem was about one part which is entirely rebel-held and that was the area that we advised the secretary that it was better that he does not go there.

ROTH: At a news conference, the secretary general said the U.N. is not here to take sides.

KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: We have discussed with the government, and we've also met the people on the ground. At this stage, we are dealing with emergency relief, as well as recovery.

ROTH: Annan's special tsunami coordinator will go to Tamil- controlled areas in the north later this week.

(on camera): Kofi Annan moves on to another country swamped by the country, the Maldives, left behind in the wake of his visit to Sri Lanka, pleased for the government and tamily opponents to engage for the good of all here.

Richard Roth, CNN, Colombo, Sri Lanka.


RIMINTON: Now, one of the interesting big picture issues that has emerged out of the tsunami and the recovery phase is the way in which different communities work together to make things good again. You must realize, across this region will are predominantly Muslims, huge numbers of Buddhists, also Hindus, minority groupings of Christians. There have been between these various groups and places some fairly deep animosities. In eastern Sri Lanka, there has been a long-time difficulty there between the Tamil groups and with the Sinhalese Sri Lankans. Harris Whitbeck visited a Buddhist temple that has been a shelter in the last few days to over 500 Tamils, predominantly Muslims. Harris Whitbeck filed this report.


HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Evening prayers around the sacred tree at a small Buddhist monastery in southeastern Sri Lanka. Monks and students pausing for reflection, between caring for more than 500 victims from the tsunami who found refuge here. An exercise in charity, for these monks in particular, it is also about redemption. The majority of the refugees in this monastery are Tamil, and it was Tamil's separatist rebels who more than 20 years ago massacred the monastery's head monk and 30 of its students in one of the most violent expressions of the ethnic strife that wracked Sri Lanka for decades.

At a memorial to the slain monks the head of the monastery quietly reads off their names and delivers a lesson in forgiveness and he hopes, reconciliation.

"Even though I lost my master and many brothers I wanted to dispel the animosity," he says "I wanted to turn a new chapter and try to get peace for the country, so I opened the doors here for everyone of all ethnic communities."

Twenty-year-old Heyab, a Tamil Muslim, has been living in the monastery for the last two weeks. He helps the monks prepare meals working side-by-side with those his people considered enemies. He says he has learned a lot about them and about himself. "Now that we've been interacting," he says, "I've learned who Buddhists are and what they are about. They've helped us out a lot. Whatever animosity that was there before has disappeared."

The head monk says the tsunami created an opportunity for redemption, "by bringing Tamils and Buddhists together," he says, "it washed away the blood of his slain brethren."

"The tsunami was a blessing in disguise because it's uniting everybody, he says, "It's a good lesson for everyone, because people have to learn to live together, people from all walks of life have to unite to help each other. It is time we learned that great lesson."

The lesson is being applied in this small monastery in the ravaged southeast of Sri Lanka, a small enclaf of hope where despair is so rampant.

Harris Whitbeck, CNN, Ampara, Sri Lanka.


RIMINTON: And looking north from Sri Lanka to India, more evidence today of that spirit of working together to make something out of this disaster, the major political parties in India have met together to discuss the best way to deliver relief -- the relief efforts. There have been, of course, many thousands of Indians that have been killed by the tsunami, particularly along the southeastern coastline of India. Many remain homeless.

Now, the Indian government has also made a decision, a determination to produce the best possible tsunami early -- early warning system. Of course, there wasn't one for this area, this is a matter of acute discussion. The Indian government says they will search and find the best technology available to redress that gap. There will be an early warning tsunami system in the Indian Ocean in the future. All of this after the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went on a tour to the hard-hit Andaman and Nicobar Islands, CNN's with Ram Ramgopal went with him.


RAM RAMGOPAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tears of helplessness in Fort Blair as India's prime minister visits the outlying Andaman and Nicobar Islands. In this relief camp Manmohan Singh meets women who have lost all and are now turning to the only entity they believe can help them rebuild their lives, the government.

Manmohan Singh, INDIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We will make arrangements for your homes. I asure you, I will give you everything. We will help you entirely in all possible ways we can. I share your sorrow and am extremely pained that some of your loved ones are not alived.

RAMGOPAL: Thousands of people may have been killed on these islands, which were far closer to the epicenter of the earthquake in Sumatra than the Indian mainland. It's still not clear exactly how many died. Some of the islands in this archipelago are so far-flung that communication has been difficult, at best.

Relief supplies are coming in by air and sea, an effort that's being coordinated by the Indian military. Critics, including aid organizations and opposition parties in India, say the relief work has been slow. The government says it is coping adequately.

For decades the Indian government has kept out foreigners and even mainlanders citing the island's sensitive ecology and the tribal culture here. Now as the extent of the extent of the damage becomes clearer, overseas aid groups are helping.

On the mainland, especially in the hard-hit state of Tamadun (PH), supplies are now flowing into relief camps.

(on camera): The focus is now on restoration. The government says it will help rebuild what was destroyed and also help people get back on their feet again.

(voice-over): Across India, there's been an outpouring of support for the victims of this disaster. In the city of Calcutta, musicians put together a charity concert. Many here wore white, the color of mourning in Indian culture, but with sorrow comes the desperate need to rebuild and safeguard the future as much as they can.

Ram Ramgopal, Chennai, India.


RIMINTON: Now, over the last two weeks since this disaster struck, we've seen this enormous global outpouring of compassion and sheer practical help in terms of money and all sorts of other supplies to reach the tsunami victims. But, one of the things that's been quite clear at Sri Lanka, is that the early stage of relief effort has been overwhelmingly delivered by local people and local aid organization. When we return on CNN, we'll talk to a representative of those local NGOs, as they call those, those networks. Stay with us here on CNN.


RIMINTON: Welcome back to our live coverage from southern Sri Lanka. The pictures we are seeing now, eyewitness videotape, more of it just coming in. This is from Banda Aceh, the man who shot this video said the water came about 15 to 20 minutes after they felt that massive earthquake. You can see there the effects of that water. People desperate as they get swept along there, along with so much other debris.

Let's now go to the issue of aid. How it gets delivered, who is best in the position to deliver it? And the work of the small local, non-governmental organizations. You hear the words "NGO" very often, the non-government organizations, as well. It stands Venkatesh Raghvendra is a representative of -- ashoka, I should say, this is an organization, an Indian-based organization that provides fellowships for people who run local NGOs.

Venkatesh, thank you very much for joining us. What has been the role of local NGOs in responding to this disaster?

VENKATESH RAGHAVENDRA, SOUTH ASIA PARTNERSHIPS: Hugh, thank you for having us here. We -- it's been tremendous the way Ashoka fellows and Ashoka was able to respond to the immediate situation there. We didn't have to come form anywhere, our fellows were already there and they have the networks and the trust of the people and that they have -- they are extremely coordinated. So they were able to jump into action right away and meet the needs of the local communities. And it's about two weeks since the disaster has happened now, so they have moved on from the immediate help and relief to reconstruction and rehabilitation, and other kinds of needs of the people there.

RIMINTON: Certainly it's been clear to us in what we've seen in southern Sri Lanka that even as the world was gearing up into action, there was an enormous amount of work being done on the ground just simply by, in this case, Sri Lankan locals working through their own networks. What difficulties were there, in your experience, were some of the aid agencies themselves, the local ones, where they suffered their own loss of staff or staff lost family members, how do you maintain the discipline to get them working together in times of enormous stress and difficulty?

RAGHAVENDRA: These fellows are extremely driven people and they are -- they have been working there, as I said, for years now, and they do have the trust of the people. So it could be Paul Hogan working in Batticaloa area -- Batticaloa area or Biam Singam (PH) who is working in northern Sri Lanka or perhaps (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who has been working all across Sri Lanka, especially southern Sri Lanka. It was -- it was easy for them to motivate these communities, their staff members and the various families and groups of people they have working with. There's been so much emphasis on children these tsunami generation, these Ashoka fellows were able to -- were able to connect with the families, they have always been working with the families so they had to just activate the networks. They've been able to draw upon the Ashoka resources from all across the world. Ashoka has its presence in 53 countries, and nearly about 1,500 Ashoka fellows. So we were able to activate those networks, reach out to ideas and resources and interesting strategies from around the world, since we are a global organization. Say for example we have, over here, Bart in India who was very familiar with disaster situations, thanks to his experience in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and he was able to come down to the southern coast, east coast of India and work with our fellows there and activate his networks.

RIMINTON: And given that there is so much work going on at a local level, what then is the role of the global community? I mean there are now massive international global professionals, if you like, these huge organizations coming in with hundreds of tons of equipment and aid. I mean, what is their role in the months ahead?

RAGHAVENDRA: Well, if people go to Ashoka's website,, they will see the coordinated efforts these local organizations and civil society organizations are doing. I think it's very important for these international organizations to entrust these local organizations who are extremely good at confidence building, who are extremely good at connecting with the local people and enroll them and put them in the forefront of the future reconstruction and rehabilitation work. So, I think -- I think these people, the Ashoka fellows and social entrepreneurs, can be extremely resourceful in understanding the community's needs, engaging them in the reconstruction work. We are hearing of the challenges that relief agencies are facinging about engaging people in some of the relief work, or removing debris, or the labor problems, and some of the issues about partisanship and so on. The Ashoka fellows and social entrepreneurs who are in the local organizations who are positioned there will be able to easily tackle these problems and move things much more quickly, much more efficiently through the coming weeks and months ahead.

RIMINTON: OK then, thank you. Venkatesh Raghvendra from Ashoka coming to us from Washington, D.C. Thanks very much for joing us.


RIMINTON: Now, when we return, there is bad weather in the bay of Bangor. What impact will that have across the tsunami area?

Also a report by the Christian Amanpour on an orphanage wiped out by the tsunami now being rebuilt by the generosity of people thousands of kilometers away. Stay with us, here on CNN.


RIMINTON: Coming to you live from Sri Lanka here on CNN. And the big talk in Sri Lanka today has been a tropical cyclone building up in the eastern Indian Ocean. Will it hit these shores or further north into India, causing for havoc? Let's track its progress at the CNN Weather Center with Guillermo Arduino -- Guillermo.

GUILLERMO ARDUINO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hugh, good evening to you. Yes, it's actually like 300 kilometers way from the coast of Sri Lanka, the eastern coast of the country. Here in the satellite picture we see the general location of it, very close indeed. The joint typhoon warning center has corrected a track and now it's taking the tropical cyclone closer to coast than before. So, the likelihood of this cyclone hitting the southern parts is very, very high, and we are talking about flash floods in the forecast, probably. The track it's expected to go through the city of Galle, the center of the system. Anyhow, the northern parts, the outer feeder bands are going to affect the area. We don't expect this to become a tropical storm. It will be a tropical depression, tropical cyclone. So, it's roughly 24 hours away from the coast.

The are areas that are going to be more affected, especially the south and, you see, the city of Galle, that I mentioned, the southern province, in general terms. And especially towards the north, we are going to see rain maybe up to Trincomalee, probably. Trincomalee is where we're expecting to see some rain showers.

Well of course, as the low pressure center getting close, we're going see the winds picking up and the precipitation happening. Again, especially the southern parts, half of the island will be affected by this. We don't think it's going to go into India, but we have the on and off rain showers.

Concerning the winds, nothing much. Colombo is reporting 11 kilometer-per-hour winds, now. We had nine a couple of hours ago. In Colombo, the weather is fine now, but you will notice where you are, an increase in clouds hour after hour until we finally get the rain. It's going to be a fast moving system because the most of this is in the open ocean, but of course it's going to bring bad weather.

Temperatures are not going to change, be affected by this. We are having like 25, 26 degrees at this hour. During the day, of course, it will go much higher -- Hugh.

RIMINTON: OK, Guillermo, thank you. You can certainly see the cloud cover building up here, I can tell you.

There have been so many stories of individual generosities in response to the tsunami from all around the world. The story that we brought you earlier on about Father Dayalan Sanders, he built up an orphanage in Sri Lanka and when the tsunami came that orphanage was washed away. He managed to save the orphans. Christiane Amanpour found out all about that story. Here is her report.


CHRISTIAN AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The story starts early morning, Sunday December 26, with his panic stricken wife.

FATHER DAYALAN SANDERS, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: She just burst into the room and I've never seen a look so terrified, and I thought, you know, what could be this wrong for her to look like this? And she said, "The sea is coming." Words defy description of what I saw. It was a massive 30-foot wall of water, you know, black in color, just coming at us -- you know, like 1,000 freight trains charging at you.

I knew that I had to act fast. There was no time to think and I had to get the children out. I came here and I was shouting at the top of my lungs. They came, I ran, I carried, I just threw them over the fence.

AMANPOUR: Their only method of escape, a small boat tied up behind the orphanage. Safe now, at a friend's home, the youngest rember how terrified they were.

"I was in front, we saw the wave coming," says Vincent, "I got down in the boat. I'm still afraid "

And Prea (PH), who is 15, says that when the wave came and lashed the boat from all sides, "we were all crying and praying to god to help us."

That's when this man of god made a desperate test of faith. With 32 people, 26 of them children in this tiny boat, he turned to the wave.

SANDERS: I stood up, I raised both my hands, and I said, "I command you in the name of Jesus to stop."

AMANPOUR: And whether the hand of god, or just good fortune, the engine was on the boat.

SANDERS: We never leave the outboard motor on the launch. I -- this is the first time we have done that -- we just this has happened to us.

AMANPOUR: And for the first time, Stefan, the boat man, got it going on the first try.

SANDERS: He just yanked the starter rope. With one pull it started. I said, this is what happened, "I called upon my god, I prayed, and my god answered my prayer."

AMANPOUR: But the drama wasn't over. They still had to outrun the wave.

SANDERS: There's no power on earth that could resist this -- the force that was behind this body of water, so the only safe place was right on top of it. And I've been on there, I was determined I'm going to get on top of that.

AMANPOUR: He ordered Stefan to turn around and charge the overloaded 15 horse power motor straight at the wave. An hour and a half later, they all floated into town, Batticaloa, drenched, spent, but alive.


RIMINTON: Well, it is certainly one of the amazing stories. We're joined from the Maryland, Father Sanders' hometown in the United -- home state, I should say, in the United States, by two of his sisters, his brother-in-law, and his mother. I can put the question to all of you, I suppose, you must be immensely proud, for a start, of what he did.

Sorry, I'll put the question again there, that you all must be immensely proud of the efforts of Father Dayalan with what he did.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes, yes, we are, absolutely.

RIMINTON: Now I understand that this has also touched a nerve in Maryland or has touched the hearts of people in Maryland and they've raised money. Can you tell us about that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want me to? Well, I think this is a story that has touched many people's hearts, and we have been getting calls from a cross-section of the people, many people are calling in to say that they are praying for us, and sending donations, and also they're willing to offer their time, and also, we have had some calls from some corporate donors. So, it's amazing. We are overwhelmed by the response.

RIMINTON: How much money has been raised?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have raised as of yesterday over $220,000.

RIMINTON: And how will you naught money now to use? Will that rebuild the orphanage?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, the money is going to mete the immediate needs. Right now they're looking for a temporary place to house the children. So part of it is going to go towards that, and also part of it is going to go towards rebuilding the orphanage. Mostly, I mean he -- the initial sum that we had aimed at raising was to -- all to go towards rebuilding the orphanage, but -- yes?

RIMINTON: What are the long-term plans there at the orphanage now? Because, I imagine, if anything, the need presumably is greater than it ever was.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, the need is going to be much greater now because of the number of children without parents, now. So the orphanage of 28 is now going to grow to, you know, maybe the capacity of maybe having children -- 150 children, and they also have to build the walls strong enough to withhold any future tides, and they're planning to build a dike. So, it's going to be a much, much larger facility that will be able to accommodate the needs of the community.

RIMINTON: Well it's a tremendous survival story, and certainly an amazing project as well. Much needed in the time ahead. Thanks very much for joining us on the program.

That's all we've got time for coming to you live on CNN from Beruwala in southern Sri Lanka. I'm Hugh Riminton. Stay with us on CNN as our coverage continues.


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