By December 26, 2004 is a date that will haunt the memories of all Sri Lankans as they relive memories of the deadly tsunami that washed away many innocent lives in just an instant. Heaps of dead bodies were piled up in religious places and hospitals as a result of this disaster which sent a wake-up call to the entire nation to unite as one family. Many disappeared, many lost their lives, many displaced and many still lamenting about how Mother Nature had treated them. Eleven years have passed but still many would remember the tsunami as an event which happened only yesterday.
One of the significant incidents which took place that day was where a train was engulfed in flood waters in which hundreds of train commuters perished at Peraliya, a village near Hikkaduwa. This tsunami rail disaster is known to be the largest single rail disaster in world history with a death toll of nearly 1,700. The train which is locally known as the Ocean Queen Express was restored as a symbol of the tsunami and an annual programme is held in memory of those who lost their lives in this tragedy. Last year, during its 10th anniversary this ‘Tsunami train’ was decorated and set off at 6.15 am, the exact time at which the train took off 10 years ago. The train reached Peraliya after stopping at all stations as it did 10 years ago with survivors, religious leaders and the media on board. Its compartments are restored and what is most special about this train is that its head guard too is a survivor of the ravages tsunami.
In Peraliya, mourners would place flowers around the monument which had been built in memory of those who lost their lives and multi-religious programmes will be held at the same place. One would definitely honour the fact that it is the finest hour of religious harmony where religious leaders would hold their programmes with the participation of those who gather there irrespective of caste or creed. However one shocking aftermath of this disaster are the mass burial graves which were dug up. Continuing the efforts to serve justice to those who lost their lives, the Tsunami train will once again commence its journey on December 26 to commemorate its 11th year.
The programme would be similar to those held in the previous years but one special feature this year would be the initiation of a decent burial after 11 years at Peraliya. With the blessings of Ven. Wimala Thera at the Peraliya temple a request has been made to build three monuments to demarcate the three mass graves which have been dug up in Peraliya. Some more additions to this year’s programme include a book donation campaign which will be organised by the Baptist Church Sangamaya of Sri Lanka where 200 books will be donated to school children, a Hindu programme which will be conducted by the Colombo North youth Hindu society and the Jumma Masjid mosque in Moratuwa and a Christian service which will be organised by the Baptist Church Sangamaya of Sri Lanka. In addition to that 40 Buddhist monks will chant pirith on board the train throughout the journey from Colombo to Peraliya along with an alms giving which will be organised with the presence of 80 Buddhist monks in Peraliya.
The programme will be done in collaboration with the Peraliya temple, Adez and the ITN Network
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