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Myriad issues for tsunami relief worker

Media release
7 June 2005

Myriad issues for tsunami relief worker

New Zealand water engineer Sriya Fernando is using her expertise to help fellow Sri Lankans displaced by the Boxing Day tsunami.

Conditions in Ampara , the worst affected district, are harsh and hot, with temperatures of up to 40 degrees centigrade. Over 130,000 people need temporary housing.

Mrs Fernando has been seconded by Waitakere City Council to a World Vision relief effort. She says housing the survivors is number one on a very long list.

World Vision has started building 2500 temporary and 500 permanent houses to replace 17,117 Ampara homes totally demolished in the disaster. The death toll in the district was 6166 out of the Sri Lankan total of 31,141.

As the only engineer at World Vision’s Ampara office, Mrs Fernando is involved temporary housing contracts, the designs for Kalmunai Hospital’s water supply scheme, construction of three pre-schools and five health centres, as well as the repair of schools and paddy fields.

“You might wonder whether I am really handling all these!” she says.

“The answer is yes, as I seem to be the only World Vision engineer in Ampara at the moment. I am giving priority to the water supply project and housing during my stay.

“People affected by the tsunami are mostly the fishing community. They are so eager to move into their houses. They need shelter above their heads and are so very cooperative, appreciating the good work World Vision has done over the past 10 years. The temporary houses look like toy houses – the floor area of each is 17-20 square metres,” says Mrs Fernando.

The World Vision team is dealing with issues of design, construction, cost and the current government policy of the houses, which are to be occupied for three to five years.

All the non governmental organisations in Ampara attend a compulsory weekly meeting on water and sanitation chaired by the area’s government agent. The organisations include German Red Cross, Danish Red Cross, Mercy Corps, Solidarities, World Health Organisation and Unicef.

Mrs Fernando visited a ‘surfers’ paradise’ at Arumugam Bay, three hours’ drive from Ampara, which was badly affected by the tsunami, but which is slowly returning to normal, with a few motels set up in the area.


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