Hungry and Sick Survivors of Tsunami Awaiting Aid
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As the international response to the tsunami disaster mounts, the picture is clarifying somewhat.

By Dr. Susott
January 1, 2004

A cargo plane from Russia landed today in Colombo full of medication, medical supplies, and food.  The customs officials demanded duty on the imported goods, so the plane took off for Thailand, hoping for a warmer welcome.  We are trying to make sure this does not happen to aid shipments yet to arrive soon from Airline Ambassadors International, Operation USA, and LDS Charities, among others.  Now we are getting word that an Israeli team of doctors plus aid and a field hospital was refused by the Government here...

 We took the “mother of all road trips”  yesterday, starting at 0130 AM, driving for 8 hours across Sri Lanka to Batticaloa on the East Coast, with a trio of prominent Tamil businessmen, corporate donors who are concerned that aid was not reaching areas of need.  Their assessment is that “the Government is doing NOTHING” to help these areas, due in part to the recent hostilities between the Government and the areas of the country controlled by the Tamil Tigers with which the peace accords have been signed 2 years ago.

We  visited some of the 700 “refugee camps”, centers for persons made homeless by the disaster.

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A one of the 700 refugee camps on the east coast of Sri Lanka
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One of more than 700 centers for persons displaced by the tsunami – a million people left homeless. Many orphaned.

At one Hindu temple, we met children who had been orphaned by the killer wave, most memorably one pretty girl of about 10 who had lost all her known relatives, according to the woman who presented her, and had been mute ever since.  

We also met a woman who lost 3 of her 4 children to the tsunami, and was distraught that the 4 child appeared to have been “stolen” from the center.  

We drove past the ruins of homes, spoke with dazed people there who had lost families and all their possessions.  Whole communities have been wiped out.    There were elderly women in colorful saris picking through the rubble of their homes.   It is impossible to know how many have died since now bodies are buried or burned as soon as they are found, with no central reporting or accounting system.

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Waiting in line for rations at a center for displaced persons – one of more than 700 now in Sri Lanka to serve the million people displaced by the tsunami.
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A soldier keeps order while people wait in line for rations...

Later, we met the director of the local hospital.  He said their urgent need is injectible antibiotics to cope with the infections expected in the days ahead due to the many wounds.  (A call to nurse Kim Douglas in Seattle has already secured $15,000 worth of these medications, which she is delivering in a few days.)  Mobile medical teams are visiting the camps, and the hospital director said they needed more vehicles.  Many of the roads and bridges have been wiped out.

We went to the Sarvodaya headquarters last night and took some munchies we had brought from Thailand to share with the staff on duty at the Disaster Relief Center.  The 10 people or so seemed appreciative, and immediately set upon the food.  They were surrounded by stockpiles of donated items which have been going out to the affected areas continually.

The Ministry of Health appears ready to receive foreign medical people, doctors and nurses, and assign them to hospitals in needy areas, although some advise waiting until the need is clarified further.

Anyway, it's already New Year's Day  and I'm happy to be “Alive in 2005” - more soon now that I'm recovered from the “road trip of a lifetime”.  I will post some photos on the website of the news-station in Sallinas shortly.  

Best wishes, Happy New Year to All and may there be Peace on Earth

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We are happy to have survived the tsunami. - Dr. Susott
Sri Lanka update #1/ 29 Dec 2004

Aloha All:

Hello from Daniel Susott, MD, in Colombo.  We are happy to have survived the tsunami.  Our small boat in the islands off of Southern Thailand was demasted.   The 6 of us passengers were snorkeling off another boat and found ourselves battling currents which sucked one direction, making it impossible for 2 of our group to reach our boat.  As soon as we picked them up from the other side of the small island, the  ocean surged violently in the OPPOSITE direction, threatening to suck our boat into the vortex.  We had no idea what was going on.  Gradually we learned of the unfolding horror, and made it back to the beach where we'd started at 0815 that morning.  An hour after we had left the beach, the big wave had struck and wiped everything out.  We were lucky.  We survived.  Thousands more did not.  

Happily the boat's motor still worked and we could get “home” and back to Bangkok.

When I learned of the magnitude of the need in Sri Lanka, I decided to come here immediately, to do what I could to coordinate the aid which is desperately needed.   I came also because of my longstanding friendship with Dr. A.T. Ariyarathne (Nobel-Prize nominee, the “Gandhi of Sri Lanka”, and the founder of Sarvodaya Shramadana, a very effective movement for development in the region),  and with Arthur C. Clarke whom I have not seen in many years.  We're seeing him tonight.

I am assisted by Juan Carlos Morales from Guatemala, who has helped me before in many ways.  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs here is using him as a resource for coordinating the Spanish-speaking volunteers who are  starting to arrive (like Los Bomberos Sin Fronteras - Firemen Without Borders! we met one this morning – midnight really – upon arrival at the Colombo airport, where we were greeted by a pretty plump woman in a green sari holding a sign “Foreign Relief teams”.)

Dr. Ariyaratne says the death toll is already over 30,000 here and he is expecting it to top 50,000.  He said he dispatched 50 doctors to the affected areas this morning and was ready to dispatch ME, but I wanted to get a bit more organized before diving in.  

 The Director  of the hotel here is Mr. Habeebulla (“Friend of God”) Ba-Falul, who is also the Honorary Consul of the Dominican Republic.  He has been very helpful, and has also been sending truckloads of relief aid to his home village on the East coast where hundreds have died.  

My dear friend in Bangkok, Sumitmai Dharmasaroj,  loaded us up with new clothing and shoes and other supplies which will find a home in Mr. Ba-Falul's villages.  This hotel is a very decent one on the ocean, near the US Embassy and convenient to all kinds of things.

I am hoping that The Airline Ambassadors, for whom I am the new Medical Director, will be able to assist with transporting some of the aid which is so desperately needed here.

More soon to follow. Have to send this fast -

Best wishes, may All Beings be Happy,

Daniel Susott, MD
29 Dec 2004

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For those interested in contributing to the relief effort in South Asia, especially in Sria Lanka which has been hardest-hit, I recommend the following organizations:

  • Airline Ambassadors International
  • Sarvodaya USA,
        Send a check to:
        Sarvodaya USA
        5716 Manchester Avenue #3
        Los Angeles, CA 90045

  • Lost Medicos Voladores

  • Our accountant of Sarvodaya, will wire funds to Sarvodaya every few days. Your contribution will be tax-deductible in 2005. Either way, it is needed immediately. And, we will make sure it is acknowledged.
  • Please send tax deductable donation
        checks to: DreamCatchers
        23852 Pacific Coast Hwy #766
        Malibu, CA 90265, USA
  • Or to make a contribution with your
        VISA or Mastercard,
        contact Gary Rhine
        at: PH (310) 457-1617

  • Note: DreamCathchers has already raised $20,000 which is arriving in Sri Lanka this week with nurse Kima Douglas in the form of urgently needed medications and cash.

    Dr. Daniel Susott, MD, meeting with hospital directors in Batticaloa, a town on the east coast of Sri Lanka 8 hours from Colombo where thousands died in the tsunami

    More Sources
  • Emergency Hotline Numbers - CNN
  • Find Information about Tsunami Affected People in Sri Lanka
  • Tsunamis Survivors at Thammasat University

  • Asian Tsunami Disaster Yahoo!
  • Asia's Deadly Tsunami
  • Asian's Deadly Waves The New York Times
  • Tsunami
  • After the Tsunami CNN
  • Asia Quake Disaster BBC
  • S. Asia Quake and Tsunamis Reuters
  • Tsunami Relief
    Video & Audio Sources
  • Yahoo!
      More Photos:  

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    So many lost so much – all their families, all their belongings, their homes - Women in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka


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    In a refugee camp in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka

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    In one of Sri Lanka’s 700+ camps for displaced persons, this woman told of losing 3 of her 4 children in the flood – and then having the last one stolen from her while in the camp.

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    This girl lost her parents and all known relatives in the killer wave, and has been mute ever since. She is in a Hindu temple converted into a shelter for some of the hundreds of thousands of people left homeless by the tsunami.

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    Houses reduced to rubble by the tsunami, Batticaloa, Sri Lanka

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    A house destroyed by the tsunami in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka

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    Houses destroyed by the tsunami,. Batticaloa, Sri Lanka (on the East Coast where aid is not reaching the primarily Tamil population)

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    Batticaloa, Sri Lanka.

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    A few days earlier, this sea surged up and killed thousands on this beach and beyond... From Batticaloa, Sri Lanka


    Photos (click on each photo to enlarge picture)
    In Batticaloa, Sri Lanka
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