|Tuesday, 28 December 2004|
Ivan Corea reporting from London
The devastation caused by the Tsunami to the people of Sri Lanka dominated media coverage in the United Kingdom. Many in Britain including the Sri Lankan Community were in a state of shock. The Foreign Office has set up a hot line for worried relatives - many Britons are spending Christmas and New Year on the island and were staying at some of the hotels in the devastated areas including Galle.
Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth has said she is "deeply saddened" by the tragedy, and asked Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to pass on her condolences and sympathies to the families and the Government and People of Sri Lanka.
In a statement, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the earthquake on this scale was "truly humbling as well as profoundly tragic for everyone involved".
Mr Straw said British emergency plans had been activated. British embassy staff and consular officials will attempt to land in the southern city of Galle by helicopter. British officials are also heading towards the devastated city of Male in the Maldives. They say two thirds of Male is under water.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said: "For the tens of thousands of British tourists in South East Asia and their relatives and friends here this will, I know, be a very worrying time. We are doing everything we can to assist but the disruption to communication in the worst affected areas is inevitably making it difficult to confirm exactly the situation on the ground." Sri Lankans in the UK are calling on Prime Minister Tony Blair, Secretary of State for International Development Hilary Benn and the British Government to help Sri Lanka by setting up an early warning system to detect earthquakes and floods - Sri Lanka does not have the infrastructure - even the British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka said he received no warning. Although you cannot always tell beforehand if an earthquake is about to happen it would help the island if such a system was set up.
Meanwhile, President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga speaking on Sky Television in the United Kingdom has appealed for Sri Lankan medical doctors living overseas and foreign medical doctors to fly to Sri Lanka in the next two to three weeks to assist in humanitarian efforts in reaching out to the sick after the Tsunami caused devastation on the island.
Diseases like typhoid and dysentary will follow in the wake of the Tsunami hence the President's appeal on British Television. The Sri Lanka High Commission in London will co-ordinate these humanitarian efforts possibly together with the Foreign Office.
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga who was on holiday in Britain was flying back to Colombo. British television reported that aid agencies such as Christian Aid and Oxfam were rushing clean water, food and other supplies to Sri Lanka. Within the next day or two,aid agencies were going to appeal to the British public to donate generously to help the flood victims in the affected countries including Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile empty charter planes were making their way to Colombo to pick up British tourists who were stranded in Southern Sri Lanka in places like Galle. Travel authorities were advising British tourists not to travel to Maldives, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia - all affected areas in the Asia-Pacific region.
Produced by Lake House