Tsunami Disaster & the People in the Northeast

'Nation' Interview on TROof the island of Sri Lanka

by Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, December 29, 2004

Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation Media Release
Press Conference at Swiss TRO Headquarters, Geneva

“Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation has grave concerns that our ability to respond in a timely manner is being hindered by excessive administrative, bureaucratic and control requirements ”

 Contact: Director, Disaster Management Unit, TRO
00 94 112 693254 (Colombo), 00  94 21 228 3947 (Killinochi)
 – www.troonline.org

Unfolding Humanitarian Tragedy

The recent Tsunami is the worst disaster to hit Southern and South East Asia for a century and more. The northeast of the island of Sri Lanka has suffered major loss and destruction. Over 11,000 have lost their lives  and around  439,000 have been displaced from their homes and left without shelter.  Beaches are strewn with debris and waste. Whole villages have been turned into cemeteries.

The full extent of the tragedy is still unfolding and there is a widespread view that the initial impact is only the beginning of a major tragedy that will arise in the next few weeks due to the spread of communicable disease and starvation.

Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation’s Grave Concern 

Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation which is a registered humanitarian organization in Sri Lanka and a member of the consortium of humanitarian has grave concerns that our ability to respond in a timely manner is being hindered by excessive administrative, bureaucratic and control requirements imposed. 

We are going through a critical phase of the relief efforts to address the impact of the unparalleled calamity caused by Tsumani. Urgent response is of paramount importance to arrest further deterioration of this tragic situation. This is particularly so because relief channelled through the Government of Sri Lanka has not reached the people of the northeast of the Island.

TRO has been in operation for over 19 years,  and currently partners with multilateral and UN Agencies and several international NGOs in major rehabilitation and reconstruction projects and programmes in the North-East of Sri Lanka. TRO has district offices and sub-offices in each of the eight districts in the North-East of Sri Lanka and employs over 3500 paid staff.

TRO has a well trained de-mining staff that have undergone extensive training including training provided by UN Agencies and are in full readiness to address dangers caused by mines. Delays of relief reaching some districts in the North-East are being attributed in some quarters to problems regarding mines. TRO considers that dangers caused by free floating mines are  far less significant when compared to the dangers of death by starvation and disease. Our staff and volunteers live in this environment and have always been exposed to these risks and have the acquired the expertise and capability to address these concerns.

During its 19 years of operation TRO has successfully managed emergency situations caused by the war that prevailed for over 20 years. In the year 1995 over 500,000 people were displaced from the Northern Sri Lanka and TRO played a significant role in providing much needed urgent relief needs.

Impact of Tsunami in the North-East of Sri Lanka

Though the full extent of the destruction is still being established, as of 29 December 2004 we can confirm the following:

Batticlaoa, Amparai, Trincomalee districts in Eastern provinces, Mullaitivu and Jaffna in the north has been the worst  affected. More than fifty villages have been completely devastated. The initial assessment indicates more than 11,000 deaths and around 19,000 injured.  The death figure is likely to increase as the rescue and recovery operations are still underway. Nearly half a million people are displaced from their homes and have moved to interior villages and towns – but without adequate shelter, food and clothing. Many of the victims are women and children


Summary of impact

Districts Displaced Deaths Injured Situation
Amparai 20000 4200 300 Rescue Operation Continuing
Batticaloa 118000 1980 2100 Rescue Operation Continuing
Trinocomalle 88000 1660 11417 Rescue Operation Continuing
Mullitivu 97000 1480 3800 Rescue Operation Continuing
Jaffna 110000 1700 1800 Rescue Operation Continuing
Mannar 6000 Nil 17 Rescue Operation Continuing
Total 439000





These figures will  be updated as and when further information is received. 

TRO’s Current Relief Efforts 

TRO has effectively formed significant number of volunteer groups through its district offices structures and are currently in the coalface dealing with the immediate challenges.

TRO volunteers along with other local NGOs, some international NGOs and LTTE’s medical units are currently engaged in the rescue and efforts to provide relief.

The initial action by TRO is centered on the provision of food, drinking water, medical assistance, burying the dead and clearing the debris.

TRO currently has significant human resources to address these immediate needs and is also in a position to increase this  capacity through forming further volunteer groups and securing the assistance of experts from the Tamil diaspora. However, the magnitude of the disaster demands significantly higher material resources than that available to TRO at the present time.

TRO’s appeal to the International Community

TRO appeals to the international community to provide much needed assistance to meet this enormous challenge. TRO staff and volunteers are locals who have faced the brunt of this devastation and are working with passion to help their brothers and sisters.

TRO has made calls to the Tamil diaspora through its 14 overseas offices to solicit financial and physical assistance to deal with operational challenges and for expert assistance and the response has been encouraging. But more has to be done.

The following are urgent requirements needed to attend to the immediate phase:

  1. Food (includes milk powder, precooked food etc.) for 80,000 families for two weeks.
  2. Non food items ( includes kitchen utensils, 100,000 mats etc)
  3. Clothing ( special concern for women and children)
  4. Drugs (paracetamol, antibiotics, dressings, suture material, disposable syringes etc)
  5. Water purification  tablets ( 500,000) and water containers  (5 litre capacity)
  6. Temporary shelters (25,000 tents  for a family of 4 and 50 medical tents)
  7. Portable generators (50)

The  immediate phase of the relief operation must be followed up quickly by preventive efforts to address water born diseases.  TRO is taking necessary steps to gather the necessary human and material resources to commence this phase as soon as possible. TRO believes that appropriate and immediate efforts taken at this juncture will avoid an escalation of the human tragedy that confronts the people in the northeast of the island of Sri Lanka.

TRO estimates that over 2 million US dollars is required to address the devastation caused by Tsunami in an effective manner. We appeal to all the parties involved in the provision of relief to do away with unnecessary controls and come forward to help and support  TRO in its efforts to address the humanitarian crisis that has arisen in the northeast of the island of Sri Lanka.

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