DODGING KILLER TSUNAMI LOCAL FAMILY RETURNS FROM SRI LANKA VISIT FEELING FORTUNATE TO BE ALIVE.
LANCASTER - Nagalingam Rajakumar, his wife and teenage son feel lucky to be alive and back in the Antelope Valley following the deadly tsunami that hit his native Sri Lanka.
In Sri Lanka to visit family over the Christmas holiday, they might have been among the victims had it not been for their son's swelled feet that caused them to cancel a beach visit.
``It's devastating ... my family consider ourselves very lucky to be here, really,'' said Rajakumar, who works as the assistant superintendent for business services at Eastside Union School District.
Rajakumar, his wife, Shyamala, and their 15-year-old son, Nimesh, were visiting Rajakumar's parents and other relatives in Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital, which is located about 60 miles to 70 miles north of where the major damage occurred.
The family had a Christmas party the night of Dec. 25 and the next morning planned to go to one of the beach hotels on the island nation's southern shore and enjoy a buffet meal.
Those plans were canceled, however, because people were tired and Nimesh, a sophomore at Quartz Hill High School, had swelled feet, either because of mosquito bites or an allergic reaction.
That area the family was planning to visit was hit Dec. 26 by a devastating tsunami.
``Had we gone there, maybe I would not be talking to you,'' Rajakumar said Monday from his school district office.
The death toll from the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and resulting tidal waves is expected to hit 150,000 killed in 11 countries that rim the Indian Ocean.
Rajakumar still regards what happened with disbelief.
``Who heard about tidal waves in Sri Lanka? It never happened before. That was the first time. No one is prepared; no one knows what do to,'' Rajakumar said.
Rajakumar's first inkling of the disaster came when he heard commotion in the streets below his parents' house and saw people rushing around. Rajakumar's sister and brother-in-law telephoned from elsewhere in Sri Lanka, although outgoing lines were jammed.
``They heard what was going on and wanted to come and evacuate us and my parents,'' Rajakumar said.
Rajakumar, who has been through a handful of earthquakes in California, at first didn't think the tidal waves were a big deal. He didn't realize then the extent and reach of the damage.
He ventured out to a beach about 100 yards from his parents' house and saw the ocean waters receding, exposing a reef that had never been there before.
Then the waters rushed back in. ``I didn't look back. I just ran back to the house,'' Rajakumar said.
On a second visit to the shoreline, Rajakumar saw damage to buildings and debris washed ashore covering a railway line and a road.
``People are watching and having fun. For that 10 or 15 minutes, it was a phenomenon for them, to see the water going down. Fish washed ashore, and people were trying to catch them,'' he said.
The Rajakumar family arrived back in the Antelope Valley on New Year's Eve.
The Sri Lankan community in the Antelope Valley has scores of members, who have raised $100,000 to help the tidal wave victims.
Dr. Sinn Moorthy, a Lancaster gastroenterologist, said the money came mostly from fellow doctors and also from patients.
There are between 25 and 30 physicians in the Antelope Valley who are from Sri Lanka, Moorthy said.
Karen Maeshiro, (661) 267-5744
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Jan 4, 2005|
|Previous Article:||STUDY: SCHOOLS NEAR BOTTOM STATE'S EDUCATION SYSTEM RECEIVES LOW RANKING IN ALMOST EVERY AREA.|
|Next Article:||STUDY LINKS PARTICULATE POLLUTION TO LOW BIRTH WEIGHT.|