Asian Tsunami Heros

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Survival tips save S.Lanka family in train deluge

31 Dec 2004 06:56:49 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Chamintha Thilakarathna
PARALIYA, Sri Lanka, Dec 31 (Reuters) - When the "Sea Queen" ground to an unscheduled stop in this tiny Sri Lankan coastal village, passengers packed inside the train's carriages thought a schoolboy had played a prank and pulled the emergency brake. Filled with excitement as they headed home to spend the New Year with relatives, many of the 1,200 passengers packed inside could only watch in astonishment as seawater flushed into the wooden carriages and crept up to their knees. Surprise gave way to panic and hundreds leapt out of doors and windows onto the drenched tracks. It cost them their lives. Minutes later a towering 10 metre (30 ft) wall of water hit the nearby palm-fringed shore, washing the train on top of them. Others drowned, trapped inside the carriages. Only around 20 people survived. Sri Lankan engineer Keerthi Lal, his wife and three children were the only whole family to survive -- and they put it down to army survival training. "If there was ever a time that I felt great about my military training, it was at that moment when I was able to save my wife and children from drowning," Lal told Reuters. Their secret was not to panic, and not to get off the train before a deadly tsunami hit. "Initially we were under water but then after about three minutes the levels receded," said his wife Kumari Ranjini, who was also in the army until they married. "We clung on to the metal bars on the sides. We were neck deep in water," she added. "I clung to my husband's shirt sleeve with one hand and with the other I held on to my youngest son." The couple eventually managed to squeeze through one of the windows and out of the twisted wreck of the train. The scene of devastation as they emerged was overwhelming.


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