Two people were killed when the ‘Punchi Tsunami’ struck the island last week; in addition, fishing boats on the coast of the districts of Kalutara, Galle, and Matara sustained significant damage. This was brought on by the enormous tidal wave that pounded the southern coast.
The Disaster Management Centre (DMC) and the Meteorological Department then made the announcement that it was only a tidal wave caused by the south west monsoon and allayed fears after people fled to safer locations out of fear of a tsunami.
A Ruhnu University student had disappeared while taking a bath in the sea off Dikwella. Pankaja Jayoda, the victim, was enjoying a sea bath with two friends when he disappeared. He is a 22-year-old resident of Thalgampola in Galle. The two other young men were saved by locals and taken to the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital.
Fisheries officials reported that numerous boats in the Jakotuwella anchorage had washed ashore and that boats in the Dodanduwa fisheries harbour had sustained significant damage. Sand had blocked the Colombo-Galle highway in a number of places, and police had routed traffic via detours. The Coast Conservation Department and the Road Development Authority took action to remove the traffic snarls.
Most of the damage from the sea water overflow has been done in the sea areas near Galle, and numerous daily activities have been disrupted, including the inability of fishermen to go to sea and road traffic obstructions.
The morning of 2 July saw some sea waves that reached the shore, and the seas from Colombo to Hambantota were a little rough. Sea water flooded homes, businesses, restaurants, government buildings, and highways.
Fishermen face the brunt
Fishermen in those areas, including Galle, Ambalangoda, and Balapitiya, avoided going to sea due to the powerful tidal wave that swept the southern coast. Due to the high sea waves, fishermen’s homes, boats, and fishing equipment were damaged.
Sea waves hit Galle, Matara, Koggala, Dehiwala, Akurala, Thelwatta, and Marawila. The Galle-Colombo main road was the worst affected, and the Galle police station and nearby homes were inundated as a result of the sea waves reaching in the Galle Samudra Mawatha area.
Due to sea water and rocks and sand entering the highways, one lane of the main Galle-Colombo road had to be closed. Fishing boats were brought to Galle and parked on the main road. The police requested alternate routes because the Galle Road had to be closed between the Usmudunnawa intersection in the Ambalangoda police area and the Hikkaduwa Kumarakanda intersection.
The following day, the sand that the seawater carried to Galle Dewa and Samudra Street was removed because the Kahawa area of the Colombo–Galle road had been severely eroded by the sea.
The main Galle-Colombo road was cleared of debris by representatives and staff from the Road Development Authority, Coast Conservation Department, and Disaster Management Units.
The damage that would have resulted from the coming of the sea waves to land could have been avoided, according to Deputy Director of the Disaster Management Centre Pradeep Kodippili.
Chairman of the Galle Fishery Port Committee, P. B. Gamini said sea waves grew ferocious and flooded the fishing port of Galle, damaging about sixty multi-day vessels that were waiting there.
Assistant Director of the Galle District office of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources L.G.T. Chandana said numerous boats were damaged despite the fact that no fatalities or injuries to people were reported.
He claims that eight multi-day boats, which cost between Rs 800,000 and Rs 1,000,000, as well as 28 boats, which cost between Rs 500,000 and below, were completely damaged as a result of the bad weather.
He claimed that 100 boats had minor damage, but that 12 small boats had also been damaged. Despite the fact that the country is in a crisis, the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has not taken any action to compensate boat owners.
He said, however, that fishermen had been told not to go fishing and that no one had gone fishing extensively the previous week.
He responded that this was an exceptional circumstance because the impact of the monsoon or the strength of the sea waves normally were not so strong. When asked if the inclement weather caused by the southwest monsoon has occurred in previous years as well, he claimed that the Department of Meteorology regularly advises fishermen to pay attention to the weather.
“However, this year’s monsoon strengthened more than we anticipated, putting many boats in danger. The large boats must have covered their damage costs through an insurance plan, leaving the small boats without any assistance. Our Department did not take any action to provide either compensation or new boats,” he said.
Boats on shore damaged
Meanwhile, Assistant Director at the District Disaster Management Galle Coordinating Unit, Lieutenant Colonel P.W. Karunarathna reported that no property damage had occurred. According to him, all boats parked on the shore were damaged as the waves grew rougher.
He said they have advised fishermen who go out for a single day to be aware of the weather and stay off the water until conditions return to normal.
Fisheries activities should not be undertaken because of the potential 50–60 km/h wind speed that is being experienced at present, he said.
(PIX By Farhan Nisamdeen – Galle & Galle District office of the Fisheries and
By Thameenah Razeek