28 February, 2021

The Tear Drops

The Emerald Isle had always looked on the sea as a calm presence. One cruel Sunday, it betrayed them with a fury that decimated 25,000 or more.

The Tear Drops
For Uditha Hettige, master naturalist at the Yala Safari Game Lodge, the morning of December 26 was typical of her Sunday routine: she had stepped into the lodge’s dining hall that overlooks the picturesque Goda Kalapuwa lagoon. Located in the southeast of Sri Lanka, the Yala National Park is just the place you’d want to take a year-end break in: idyllic beaches, exotic flora and fauna, a soporific serenity that makes you forget the burden of your daily grind. At 8.45 am, Hettige still hadn’t been through her lazy breakfast; and then she heard the tormented, confused cries of local birds—egrets, cormorants and such like—as they took off from their perches.

"I knew at once it couldn’t have been a crocodile as such a large number of birds wouldn’t get simultaneously disturbed," she recalls. It was then that she turned to glance at the sea, just 150 metres away. The view was terrifying: giant tidal waves were sweeping towards the lodge. "Tidal wave, run, run," she shouted, rushing out of the lodge. Outside, she came across a child lying on his face. Hettige picked...

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