Sri Lanka Tsunami Evacuation

On the 11th April 2012 we were sitting beach side on the South Coast of Sri Lanka when an 8.6 magnitude quake rocked the Indian Ocean. We were in the remote village of Ahangama 3km from the city of Galle when the Sri Lanka tsunami warning sirens sounded across the region. We had just sat to order lunch at our hotel having arrived from an 8 hour journey from Bangkok. As panic ensued we reluctantly abandon our shots of local ‘arrack’ liquor to follow terrified waiters to the roadside. The organisation was shambolic. Expecting to be evacuated by hotel staff we find it obvious this would not happen. The hotel manager disappeared in a passing vehicle leaving us with two clueless staff. “What do we do?”. One of the remaining points to a distant pole and says “climb it”. With my elderly mum in tow this wasn’t really an option. As pole climbing was no less than insane we opted to blag seats on a fleeing tour bus (Gecko’s Tours) to join the Sri Lanka Tsunami Evacuation.

Ahangama Beach Coast, South Sri Lanka Tour, Independent Travel, AsiaTsunami Evacuation, South Sri Lanka Tour, Independent Travel, Asia Broken Down Tuk-Tuk, South Sri Lanka Tour, Independent Travel, Asia


Sanctuary with a Betel Chewing Villager

The bus joined crowds of deserting locals pushing north into Sri Lanka’s rainforests. Two miles inland the driver pulled up where a betel chewing villager greeted us with tea and shared his TV for tsunami updates. As Tsunamis are too unpredictable no-one could feel safe and rumours of possible looting forced a tour guide’s return to protect the hotel planning to climb ‘the pole’ at the first sign of a wave.

Sri Lankan Villager, South Sri Lanka Tour, Independent Travel, Asia Shelter from Tsunami, South Sri Lanka Tour, Independent Travel, Asia


The Aftershocks

When things appear safe there was a further newsflash. An 8.2 magnitude aftershock hit the Indian Ocean and the Sri Lanka Tsunami warning continued. The tour guide returns with treats of Pepsi and Lemon Puff biscuits. I spend my hours exploring surrounding gardens and rainforest documenting fruit, spices and wildlife.

PepperCorns on Creeper, South Sri Lanka Tour, Independent Travel, Asia Kaffir Lime Lime Leaves, South Sri Lanka Tour, Independent Travel, Asia

It was four hours before we return to the coast. Too dangerous to pack and leave. Arrack cocktails and Lion Lager failed to ease tensions with fear of further Tsunami warnings and aftershocks at back of mind. The anxiety continues through the night as waves crash and palms rattle around our beachfront guestrooms.

Sri Lankan Arrack Cocktails, South Sri Lanka Tour, Independent Travel Ahangama Beach at Night, South Sri Lanka Tour, Independent Travel Asia


The Following Morning

Our whale watching and island hopping plans were cancelled as we joined the tourist exodus of Sri Lanka’s South Coast in the morning. We draw up a new South Sri Lanka Tour Itinerary. The new plan was to return to Colombo via the tea mountains of Ella and Sri Lanka’s cultural capital of Kandy. For a slightly more exciting (exaggerated) account of our Sri Lanka Tsunami Warning experience we made page 3 in our local Newspaper.

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