Tsunami disaster January 3, 2005

Players reveal how their families were affected

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The extent to which Sri Lanka's cricketers suffered from the tsunami disaster was spelt out clearly by four of the players whose families and relatives were directly affected by it.

The cricketers related their tales of woe at Sri Lanka Cricket's headquarters on Sunday, with Sanath Jayasuriya holding centre stage along with three of his team mates Nuwan Zoysa, Upul Chandana and Dilhara Fernando.

Jayasuriya related how his mother Breeda, 64, had gone to the Sunday market in Matara and was caught when the wave that hit the town. She was swept towards a river before she managed to get a hold onto a branch of a tree and cry out for help.

She was one of the few who were lucky to survive, although she was left with a grim reminder of her ordeal with a large area of skin pealed off from her hip downwards by the polluted salt water. Jayasuriya said his parents' house, which was near the seafront, was badly damaged but he was thankful that the rest of his family had survived. He said his mother was being treated at the Nawaloka hospital.

Chandana also had a sad story to tell. Mulin Umagiliya, the youth who saved his 69-year-old mother from drowning, was killed soon afterwards when the roof onto which he had climbed collapsed. He had clambered on top to call for help on his mobile phone. Chandana said that his mother had suffered injuries but was out of danger.

Zoysa said he lost his aunt and four other relations in Galle, while Fernando suffered losses from his wife's side when three relatives travelling by train to Galle were killed.

Marvan Atapattu, Sri Lanka's current captain, also had some anxious moments when his father was held up at Kataragama when the disaster occurred. Atapatttu senior was later able to get in touch with his family and returned to Colombo safely.

Brendon Kuruppu, the Sri Lankan team manager, said the team first came to know about the calamity in Sri Lanka soon after the first one-day international at Auckland at around 6pm local time.

"Initially we did not feel the gravity of it," Kuruppu said. "But as the days passed by and the death toll began to rise the players became extremely worried and concerned. The team's mental preparations was not towards cricket but what was happening back home. The players wanted to return home and be with their loved ones not clearly knowing what fate had befallen them."