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4 years later, tsunami victim rebuilds his life

[AP, Friday, 26 December 2008 08:53 No Comment]

Every morning and evening, Velmurugu Kangasuriyam gathers his 2 1/2 year-old daughter and his wife and confronts the wreckage of his former life.

 

His wife, Thaya, lights an oil lamp on the mantle of a dark, bare concrete room. Kangasuriyam presses his hands together and closes his eyes. Little Theresa follows in imitation. For a long minute his new family stands in silent prayer.

 

Thaya places orange flowers in front of pictures of Hindu gods. She lays several more before a picture of Kangasuriyam’s parents.

 

The last flowers sit in front of a photo of a woman in a striking red bridal sari: Devi, who was Kangasuriyam’s wife for just 10 months before she died, along with his parents, three of his sisters and a brother, four years ago Friday.

 

The tsunami that crashed over south Asia on Dec. 26, 2004 and killed 230,000 people washed away nearly everything Kangasuriyam held dear. Sixteen close relatives were killed. His seaside village was razed, his house demolished, his business destroyed.

 

Four years later, with international aid and prodding from his remaining family, the 30-year-old has rebuilt his life. He has a new family. He has a bigger house in a resettlement village set back from the ocean.

He opened a new bicycle repair shop to replace the one where he worked alongside his father from boyhood.

 

A quiet man, Kangasuriyam says he is finally getting his life back in order.

 

"I want to be happy with what I have, and get over it," he said.

 

About 35,000 Sri Lankans died in the tsunami. More than half a million were left homeless.

Aid groups have since built more than 100,000 new homes, though several thousand families still remain homeless, according to the United Nations.

 

Many of the survivors have worked to rebuild their lives and carry on, though nearly all bear deep and permanent scars of the disaster.

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