narrow escape from tsunami terror
By Anushika Gunawardana
"We were very fortunate. Most things worked
out for us. If we had got fifteen minutes late, we would have collided
straight on with the waves." So says Sri Lankan cricketer Jehan
Mubarak, about last Sunday's deadly tsunami. As things went, he
and his group of friends, made a timely escape, and considering
the death and devastation that ensued. This was no mean feat.
and his friends had just arrived in Bentota, where they were supposed
to spend a day of relaxation and fun, at an HSBC bungalow, when
things got drastically out of hand. "It was completely unexpected,"
the moment, Jehan maintains, "It was about 9.30 in the morning
when we got there. We hadn't even unpacked. Some of us had just
sat down to take a small rest after the long drive. Two friends
and I went near the pool, and we were standing there taking in the
scenery, when the first wave came in. It was about three feet high
and swept right across the pool."
cricketer continued, "At first we didn't know what was happening,
but felt that we should seek safety. The only place where there
was safety was the roof. Fortunately, there was a ladder inside
the bungalow, which we used to climb on to the roof. That was the
best thing that happened. Having that ladder really helped."
no one in the party, as most of the country, had any idea that things
would turn out to be so much worse, some of his friends had climbed
down to check on what was happening. But they had all managed to
scamper back up quickly, for fear of more waves coming through.
And came they did. Jehan says that with the next couple of strong
waves, things started to look dangerous. "The second, third
and the fourth waves were the worst.
was so much water gushing about and the water level came just below
the roof. The bungalow was completely flooded with water. Some of
the waves were nearly six feet high." According to Jehan the
seventh wave had been the strongest, bringing in lots of debris
and mud. Jehan recalls the way they had witnessed their vehicles
getting dragged off, while waiting on the roof, was agonising to
watch. There was nothing they could do. Life was more valuable.
other aspect that worked out in his favour was that he was able
to use his mobile phone to call for help. As the disaster around
Asia was still uncovering, the phone lines, which were later to
become completely congested, were relatively free. Jehan had managed
to call his mother, who in turn had contacted Lalith Abeysekara,
a friend at the Air Force, to arrange for a way to get them out.
the meantime the whole party found itself stranded on the roof,
surrounded by water. At a short lull, they had climbed down and
made their way to the 'Seasands,' a hotel 200m South of their bungalow.
From there, the party had been joined by a crowd of 150 people,
mostly tourists, looking for a way to get to dry land. There, they
had managed to flag a chopper down, and in a moment resembling an
action film, had been airlifted to a school in Beruwala. If not
for the gravity of the situation where lives were at risk, and a
country and region had been devastated, this could have been an
adventure of a kind.
whether he feared for his life at any point in this ordeal, Jehan
had this to say. "I never thought that I would die. The most
important thing was to stay calm and not to panic. When I was on
the phone I heard that about 150 people were reported to be dead,
but I didn't share this with my friends for fear of making them
panic." This indeed is a rare ability, where one is able to
keep one's head in a moment of danger.
further adds that it was also easier to keep calm since they had
no idea of the disaster unfolding in Asia. It was only after they
got home that they all realised, what a narrow escape they had had.
Commenting on the situation that is unraveling around us these days,
he believes that it will take a long time for those affected to
Tuesday, the 28th, Jehan had gone to Bentota to take a look around
the bungalow, which he claims is destroyed on the inside, although
the structure remains. "There is a lot of debris around. My
car was inside the garden of the next bungalow. The dividing wall
had been washed away by the waves. Everybody's cars had gone in
various directions and were lying around in various angles. Many
of them were badly dented, and the shutters smashed to pieces. But
the most important thing is that all of us managed to get out in
time - unharmed."
present, Jehan is helping out with relief efforts underway at the
Cricket Board, to send much needed supplies to the coastal areas,
devastated by Sunday's tsunami. It is the least he can do to help
the victims of this disaster. For the moment though he is definitely
savouring the fortunate way in which things worked out for him and
his friends, while also aware of the dangers that could have befallen.