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30 Dec, 2004

Tsunami Update 9: “Caring Has No Religion”

A superb story in the Indian Express describes how people of all religions, castes and creeds came together to help each other out.

Beginning with a superb story in one of the world’s best newspapers, the Indian Express, headlined “Caring Has No Religion,” this dispatch contains the latest announcements, updates and appeals from Gulf Air, Singapore Airlines, Sri Lankan Tourist Board, PATA, Ecumenical Coalition On Tourism, Renton de Alwis, Lonely Planet, School Of Travel Industry Management, University Of Hawaii, Karon Sea Sands Resort and Mandip Singh Soin.



Peter van Wingerden, Contracting Assistant, Africa, Asia, Latin America & Pacific, Travel Trend & NBBS, part of MyTravel Group: Working at a tour operator in Holland your news updates made me able to update worried Dutch who are missing friends, update travel agencies on the situation. Have ourselves updated about regions we do not sell. You are doing a very good job! Thanks a lot!



By RAJEEV P I, Indian Express, December 30, 2004


CUDDALORE, DECEMBER 29: Rahmatullah is a tired man. He and his nephew have just returned to their masjid after burying an unknown Christian man, identifiable by the black thread with the little cross around the neck. They had not forgotten to put a makeshift bamboo cross on the burial mound.

He now needs to take the infant daughter of Shivakumar, both staying in the masjid, to the doctor. ‘‘Maaf karna, kaam bahut pada hai. Hamara president Younus saab se baath keejiye,’’ he says in Hindi, before going out. (Please forgive me, there is a lot of work to do. Please talk to our president Mr. Younus).

In Cuddalore, the second hardest-hit town in Tamil Nadu when the killer waves came, a masjid and the local jamaat have emerged as the rallying point for thousands of fisherfolk – almost all of them Hindus and Christians. There are hardly any Muslim fishermen in Cuddalore, and most of the local Muslims are either traders-which explains the Hindi-or have NRI (non-resident Indians) sons in the Gulf. There have been no Muslim casualties.

‘‘We came to know when people came running to the masjid, minutes after it happened. We decided to do what we could do,’’ says Mohammed Younus, president of the United Islamic Jamaat. ‘‘Isme kya badi baath hai?’’ he asks. (Figuratively speaking: Why should there be any problem?)

The administration is grateful. Says District Collector Gagandeep Singh Bedi: ‘‘They have been doing wonderful work, I was with them the whole last night.’’ Once the relief and rescue work is over, Bedi plans to write to the state government about their work.

Within minutes of the tsunami striking Pudukuppam, Samayarpettah, Chinnoor and other little villages along the Cuddalore coast on Sunday morning, Younus had summoned his flock. Within half an hour, his men had left their shops and homes for the beaches in their goods vans, cars, two-wheelers and cycles, picking up and rushing the injured to hospitals.

By noon the Jamaat on its own had organised milk for a few hundred babies, and food for over 3,000 survivors. By evening, about 3,000 Muslim men were tending to over 10,000 Hindus and Christians in makeshift camps in the local schools.

A few hundred of the survivors were invited to stay in the masjid, where they still stay. Many more are in the Jamaat’s school, and dozens occupy its office building.

For the last three days, the Jamaat has employed 24 cooks working round the clock to feed about 9,000-odd survivors. Some in the relief camps and others in the five battered villages. The administration provides the rice and milk, and the Jamaat buys the vegetables and everything else on its own. There are about 20,000 men under the Jamaat, and the huge community kitchens that it had been using for its frequent community feasts were immediately turned into relief kitchens.

As the bodies began piling up, Younus asked his men not to hesitate. And, for the last three days, they have been doing what might be unthinkable for many Muslims: carrying bodies on their own shoulders and cremating them. ‘‘To the possible extent, we have been making sure that the Hindu bodies are burnt, and Christians are buried. They should not feel offended in death,’’ Younus reasons.

Younus says he hadn’t slept or eaten well after the tragedy stuck. He has been running around five villages guiding his men, looking after the survivors, making things work.

It was only when the Army moved in yesterday to Pudukuppam, which suffered the heaviest toll, that the Jamaat withdrew from that village. But for the other four, it is still the only solace. ‘‘It’s all God’s will. Inshallah, they will all begin life well in a few weeks,’’ he says.

Younus says none of his over 3,000 men will leave until the survivors are back on their feet. ‘‘We will continue to raise money to feed them for as long as they need. They are welcome to be with us as long as they want,’’ Younus says.



24-hour assistance: Gulf Air has set up a 24-hour helpline to provide information to passengers and families of passengers travelling to and from the affected areas. Helpline No: +968 24161068. We are also working closely with government officials, police and hospitals in those countries to ensure that passengers are assisted in every possible way to return home. This includes assistance in the event of loss travel documents.

Crisis centres: Crisis centres have been set up at three locations in Colombo, Thailand and Madras to provide on the spot 24-hour assistance to passengers and additional land transport arrangements have been made to help stranded passengers get to the airport.

Colombo: The Gulf Air crisis centre is located in the town office and is manned 24 hours a day. Gulf Air can be contacted 24 hours a day on +9411 243 662 (town office) +9411 225 2903 (airport)

Madras: Government crisis numbers for local use are 100 and 103 available 24 hours a day. Gulf Air can be contacted 24 hours a day on +9144 225 61452 (airport) +9144 28583298 (town office). Transport and accommodation have been arranged for stranded passengers.

Bangkok: The government crisis hotline for local use is 199 and the Gulf Air hotline number is +661 867 1929. Government transport has been arranged for passengers to Bangkok airport where a crisis centre is in place in the domestic terminal to help passengers. Gulf Air staff are available at this centre around the clock. The Gulf Air airport office is open and manned 24 hours a day.

Flights: Gulf Air operations are normal and all flights are running to schedule.

Gulf Air Holidays: Gulf Air Holidays has already been in touch with all customers and our records show that no one has been directly affected. We are however checking with any passengers due to travel to these areas in the next 14 days. They will be entitled to change to an alternative destination without any amendment charges or obtain a full refund.

Change of reservation: For all passengers wishing to depart affected areas, please contact Gulf Air (as per above) and passengers will be rebooked onto the first available flight regardless of any ticket restrictions without penalty.

Passengers who have lost tickets will be accepted for travel provided a confirmed reservation had been held. For other items involving travel documentation e.g. passports, customers should contact local embassies to obtain emergency travel documents.

Customers with reservations for travel to affected areas may rebook for travel at a later date (subject to same booking class of reservation and seats available) up until 31st December 2005. All rebookings must be made by 15th January 2005. Any rebooking/amendment fees will be waived.

Gulf Air is working closely with other airlines to assist stranded passengers, where seats are available on the Gulf Air network.

Customers wishing to cancel travel to affected areas should contact Gulf Air or their tour operator/travel agent to have their tickets exchanged for a Miscellaneous Charges Order permitting travel to other Gulf Air destinations up to the same value before 31st December 2005 . Any additional fare or costs will be payable by the customer. Any ticket exchanges must be completed by 15th January 2005.



The Singapore Airlines Group will make a donation of $300,000 to the Red Cross Tidal Waves Asia Relief Fund. Singapore Airlines has been in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), as well as Red Cross in Singapore, to offer freight of relief supplies to affected areas which are served by SIA. The first shipments of this aid from MFA being carried on SIA flights leave tonight to Thailand and Sri Lanka.

Singapore Airlines Cargo is working with organizations around the world to position emergency relief supplies into affected areas. Aid is being flown from as far as Europe and the USA.

SIA’s Executive Vice President Marketing and Regions, Mr Huang Cheng Eng, said, “The staff of the SIA Group join me in a sense of anguish at the magnitude of the loss and devastation caused by this earthquake. Beyond our contribution as a Group, a huge number of our staff are making their own contributions directly.

SIA and SilkAir are assisting customers who were visiting affected regions with their travel arrangements. Some customers reporting with lost tickets and travel documents are being accommodated so they can reach their homes speedily.

Flight operations are normal, except to Male (Maldives), where damage to the Airport’s navigation system prevents night operations. SIA’s five-times-weekly services have been rescheduled to daylight operations. SilkAir has operated one additional flight to Phuket to cater for demand on the return sector.



The evacuation of foreign visitors from Sri Lanka’s coastal areas gathered pace today. More than 2000 tourists have already been transported to temporary accommodation in the capital Colombo. The city’s major hotels have thrown open their doors to the visitors, offering all available bed-space and banquet and function rooms as temporary housing. Many Sri Lankan citizens have also come forward to host stranded tourists.

Colombo’s main conference venue, the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conventions Centre (BMICH) has also been converted into a facility for accommodating the tourists, conducting medical checks and for processing travel documents for those who lost their passports. The Sri Lanka Tourist Board (SLTB), which is leading the emergency evacuation effort, has arranged a shuttle bus service from the city hotels and the BMICH to take people to the airport.

It is estimated that 6,000 foreign visitors were holidaying in the coastal areas affected by the Tsunami. “Over the past 48-hours, and following a huge effort from the entire travel industry in Sri Lanka, we have evacuated most of the group-travel tourists safely to Colombo,” said the SLTB’s Chairman, Mr. Udaya Nanayakkara.

“We are now concentrating on helping the Free-Independent-Travellers (FITs), putting them in touch with their individual embassies and providing transport from the coastal areas to Colombo”, he added. “Regular shuttle buses will collect independent travelers at predetermined pick-up points. We have appealed over radio and television for local people to help take these visitors to the pick-up points.”

“In co-operation with the Foreign Office and the airlines the repatriation is proceeding very smoothly. Over the past 24 hours more than 1,000 people have left on scheduled flights and chartered aircraft. The Sri Lanka Tourist Board has also set up Help Desks and a special facility at the Taj Airport Gardens Hotel to assist travellers awaiting repatriation.

As many as eleven hotels in the southern coastal belt resumed operation today as generators were repaired to supply power. Of the 5,600 rooms in affected areas, about half are still out of operation. Mr Nanayakkara said that initial reports indicated that only a few hotels suffered serious structural damage. While majority of hotels will be operational within the coming two weeks, those with serious structural damage are expected to be back in operation within the coming months.



BANGKOK, December 30, 2004 — The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) today announced the launch of its Tsunami Recovery Fund. The Fund will be administered by the PATA Foundation, the charitable arm of PATA. The Foundation is inviting PATA members, chapters, governments, tourist authorities, travel professionals and individual travellers to pledge money which will be dedicated to a recovery programme for the benefit of PATA member organisations both from the public and private sectors, in the eight PATA destinations impacted by the disaster.

With a strong focus on human resource development and training, the money pledged to the Fund will directly help rebuild skills and livelihoods of tourism employees. PATA Foundation Chairman Mr David Paulon said: “We want to help rebuild lives and hope in tourism communities devastated by the December 26 tragedy.” PATA Chairman Mr Ram Kohli said: “I am sure I speak on behalf of PATA’s entire Board of Directors when I applaud the Foundation for this worthy and timely initiative. I urge my colleagues and friends to give generously to the Tsunami Recovery Fund.

To pledge money to the PATA Tsunami Recovery Fund, e-mail tsunami-recovery@PATA.org. Or fill out the pledge form at http://www.pata.org/patasite/index.php?id=1112.



From Ranjan Solomon, Executive Secretary

Most news accounts focus on the extent of devastation on the tourist sector with special concern of the safety of the tourists. Little, or nothing, is said about the conditions of the workers in the tourist sector. Thousands have been rendered homeless left only with the clothes they were wearing at the time. Worse, they could well find themselves last in line in the reconstruction effort.

ECOT’s is launching an appeal- a first attempt to respond in a small way to support the most vulnerable people in the tourism sector- workers and their families – whom reconstruction is unlikely to reach soon enough to enable them to get on with their lives.

Our attempt is to reach acutely affected families with assistance in reconstruction of houses, community infrastructures, and meeting needs to enable people to restart their lives. We also hope to work with tour operators and agencies e.g. PATA to encourage tourists not to abandon the affected countries as preferred tourist destination at this time.

Tourism workers have loyally served the leisure visitors and now feel abandoned as tourists walk away from the country. It is they who will feel the economic deprivation of the ‘lost’ tourist the most. In this regard, the travel advisories from European governments to their citizens to stay away from these destinations some how seems over protective of their citizens at the cost of the people in countries they normally visit in happy times.

We hope to extend this support in Sri Lanka, the most severely affected country and in Galle, perhaps the most affected part of Sri Lanka. We have established contacts with the YMCA in Galle, which has a wide community base and development activities and capacities in reconstruction work. We urge your urgent and generous response.

Please send your cheques in the name of “ECTWT Ltd”.

Bank Transfers must be remitted as follows:

In the name of : ECTWT Ltd.

Name of Bank: Bank of East Asia

Address of Bank: Tai Wai Branch, 16 -18 Tai Wai Road,

Cheung Fung Mansion, Shatin N.T., Hong Kong

Bank Code: 015

Account Number: 159-25-00204-4

Swift-code Beneficiary bank: BEA SHKHH

Ecumenical Coalition on Tourism (ECOT), 96, 2nd District, Pak Tin Village, Mei Tin Road, Shatin – New Territories, HONG KONG SAR, China, Tel No: (+852) 2602-3669 Fax: (+852) 2602-3649 E-Mail: contours@ecotonline.org. Website: http://www.ecotonline.org



Phone/ Fax: (941) 2876590. Mobile: (94) 0777687765. <renton@sri.lanka.net>

In Sri Lanka, it is estimated now that the death toll may rise to be close to 50,000 and about 1 1/2 million rendered homeless.

We want to focus on the rebuilding exercise after the initial trauma is over as the relief dries up in a few days and the real issues will come up. Prof. Sarath Kotagama and a team from the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka of the Colombo University (FOGSL), myself and a team, leave on Saturday for RUK area (between Tangalle and Hambantota) with tents, sleeping things and medicines, to do a needs assessment of three villages, which we knew quite well before, when they were operational fishing villages i.e. Madilla in Tangalle, Kalametiya, and Wanduruppa in Ambalantota all in the deep south of Sri Lanka. There is little left of them now.

Everyone has given them food and clothing and there is enough of it for now. The main road from Nonagama is ok and the stretch is accessible. We were told that there are string of vehicles with help going there each day. And we know this will last for a few days/weeks more. There are many other areas apparently away from the main roads and cameras that need help and assistance. What they need now is help, to keep diseases away and rebuild their lives.

Since we can’t do everything, we want to focus on this area, which we knew and worked earlier. We leave on Saturday January 1 morning from my place at 5 a.m. returning on the 4 January. If you cannot come yourself, you can help us with the following:

1. Sleeping tents can get it at cost price Rs. 8000 for one which can house 8 people. We have ordered 10 from personal funds we need much more 2. Mats and sleeping bags, pillows 3. Baby food full cream milk powder 4. Medicines like bandages, plaster, cotton dressings, panadol, baby panadol, panadol syrup, antiseptic creams, anti-diarrhoea medicines 5. Plastic containers to store water, sugar, milk and stuff 6. plastic plates, steel spoons and similar stuff.

We think we will later need help to get their livelihood back, such as fishing nets, boats, houses but those will be decided after talking to them and assessing their needs within the next few days. We plan to visit each village within the next three days and prepare detailed needs assessments. We are aware that there are areas that are much worse affected, but decided to do what we can even to help a few (about 500 -700 people) rather than spreading ourselves very thin.

If you cannot help immediately you certainly can later on, on a more organised basis, when the needs assessments we do at each village are ready. Please pass on this call to others as well.



“These communities and their peoples are Australia’s nearest neighbours. We have a long association with them, and of course, with the travellers who visit them,” said company co-founder, Tony Wheeler. “We are particularly concerned about the more remote destinations such as Aceh in Indonesia and Galle in Sri Lanka as these communities will take the longest to recover and are likely to be the most in need for a long time.”

“Lonely Planet has a long history of helping out with projects which really make a difference at the local community level. We want to continue this focus in how we donate our $A.5 million over the coming months”, said Wheeler. “We will give an immediate donation of $A50,000 to the Red Cross, $A50,000 to Care Australia, $A50,000 to Oxfam-CAA and $A50,000 to the Save the Children Fund. We will then donate the remainder to specific local community initiatives over the next six months”.

“Since Sunday night the Lonely Planet website (www.loneyplanet.com) has been a global gathering point for people looking for information, finding missing persons, donating to aid organisations, and, helping out. We’re making changes to the site daily to keep travellers and their families up-to-date with news in the aftermath of this tragic event.”

Wheeler adds, “The Lonely Planet community is responding and has really swung into action. “It is sobering to see the number of postings and interactions on the site but it is also incredibly heartening to see how people are helping each other. There has been responses from all over the world.”

Slatyer continues, “In a year of strong profits, a booming economy and record share market values, we believe corporate Australia is up to the challenge of matching the government’s $35 million for this disaster. If there was ever a time for corporate Australia to dig deep and if there was ever a time when it can afford to do so, this is it.”

To post messages to Lonely Planet online ‘missing persons’ web page go to http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com/categories.cfm?catid=68

For information on affected areas go to http://www.lonelyplanet.com/

Anna Bolger, Marketing Communications Manager. Tel: 61 3 8379 8000/0411 437 704



On behalf of the School of Travel Industry Management we wish to send our sincere condolences to all who have lost family, friends and colleagues in the catastrophic events caused by the Tsunami this past week. We recognize the ongoing challenges for those who have survived this unbelievable natural catastrophe and we wish to be part of the ongoing effort to relieve suffering and to help in planning towards a better future.

The TIM School, as well as its faculty and staff, are making contributions to the East-West Center Tsunami Fund. We encourage all of our colleagues, especially those in Hawaii, to support this effort. Checks can be made out to the East-West Center Tsunami Fund and sent directly to the East-West Center.

We are also offering the services of our Training and Project Coordinator for Southeast Asia, Khun Pawinee Sunalai, to assist in any relief and planning efforts in Southeast Asia. If you wish to avail yourself of this offer please do not hesitate to contact me at wjtourism@hotmail.com.



We are doing everything possible to assist the least fortunate of Phuket’s residents. Patong beach has been badly damaged. Khaolak is completely destroyed and there has been extensive damages on other beaches. Karon Beach was also hit but as Karon beach is higher than other beaches so the damage was not too much compared to other beaches. There was some damage to few shops and one hotel on the Karon Beach.

Yesterday evening everything looked just normal at the Karon beach, all the shops, restaurant and bars were open. All other public services like banks, post office and transport etc. are in function. We were very lucky as there was no damage at all to Karon Sea Sands Resort and we are functioning normal.

In case you have more queries please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Lets pray together for the least fortunate of Phuket’s residents.

Tel : +66 76 286460-64, Fax : +66 76 286457, www.karonseasand.com Email: sm@karonseasand.com



It is touching to see that Sri Lanka has declared 31st December as a day of National mourning. It seems very futile to open the daily newspapers since the last three days and read the celebratory events planned in various Delhi hotels for the 31st and their celebrations. It is also a good move by all the Delhi local clubs that have taken the step of cancelling their celebrations. I think India should do the same considering the enormity of the tragedy and we should mark 31st Dec as a day of paying respect to the affected families not just of India but for the people of the South Asia region affected by the Tsumani.

In fact it would be quite sad if people of South India were to open the newspapers on the 1st or 2nd morning and see images of people revelling in New year celebrations. I know we can’t come down with a dictat but it is more in line with being sensitive and displaying restraint as well as show Corporate Social Responsibility at this moment so I wondered if it may be appropriate for a tourism network like yours to inform citizens of this region and request hotels to reconsider going ahead with their New Year celebrations.


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