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A short account of the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka in 2004


The Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami hit Sri Lanka on December 26, 2004. The tsunami was one of the worst disasters ever recorded in Sri Lankan history. The tsunami left tens of thousands dead, many more homeless and caused widespread chaos throughout the island. The eastern shores of Sri Lanka faced the hardest impact since they were facing the epicentre of the earthquake. The southwestern shores were hit later, but the death toll was just as severe. Civilian casualties in Sri Lanka were second only to those in Indonesia. This was partly due to the fact that the coastal areas of the island are highly populated with over 310 inhabitants per sq. km. The power of the waves and the flatness of the terrain resulted in water reaching 800 sq. km in all. According to official estimates 35, 082 people perished and 4,469 people were reported missing after the tsunami. Another 250,000 people living on the coasts of Sri Lanka were directly affected.  In addition to the high number of fatalities, approximately 90,000 buildings were destroyed.


The 2004 Sri Lanka tsunami-rail disaster was a rail disaster with the highest count of deaths in history. It occurred when an overcrowded passenger train was destroyed on a coastal railway by the tsunami, and resulted in the greatest loss of life in railroad history. The train, known locally as the Queen of the Sea Line, was a regular service train operating between Colombo and Galle and ran along the southwestern coast of Sri Lanka. Sunday 26 December 2004 was both the Buddhist full moon holiday and Christmas holiday weekend. When the train left Colombo shortly after 6:55 A.M. it was packed with almost 1,500 regular passengers and an unknown number of passengers who travelled without tickets. When the train reached Telwatta around 9:30A.M, the waters of the first wave halted its progress. Passengers opted either to stay inside the train for safety or behind the train to shelter from any further waves. When the second wave reached the shore, all of them perished either drowned or crushed by the train or debris.





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