“The seventy five families that lost all what they possessed together
with their houses and thirty nine loved ones to the earth slip that
occurred at Meeriyabedda, Koslanda on the morning of 29th October 2014
will be given permanent houses at Poonagala within the next three
months” confirmed Nimal Abeysiri District Secretary Badulla.

P D DE SILVA

For more than a year these people have spent sleepless nights in the
tiny cramped cubicles at the welfare camp set up at the Mahakanda tea
factory premises in uncertainty. Preperations to provide them with
permanent housing on two previous occasions did not get beyond the
foundation stone. But now they sleep well as they can see the seventy
five little cottages sprouting up by the side of the Poonagala –
Koslanda road.The project finally got underway on the 15th of March
last year when Palani Dhigambaram Minister of Estate Infrastructure
Development laid the foundation stone with the blessings of President
Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe. The
three hundred and sixty members of these seventy five families would
have welcomed the Sinhala and Hindu New Year which dawned a few days
ago in their new homes if the project was completed on schedule but
it will take three months more.
Subramaniam Wimala  (31)_resized_2
The seventy five family units that were initially accomedated at the
Mahakanda welfare center has increased to 92 now with familied
children sharing their parents living quarters while others have
postponed their marriage till such time they are provided with
permanent housing .

“I lost my parents and sister on that fateful day” said Subramaniam
Wimala in halting Sinhala. “I was saved because I was visiting my
in-laws but was in contact with my mother over the phone till it went
dead. Parts of my mothers remains were exacavated six days after but
my father still remains buried there” she added. Heavy rains triggered
the massive earth slip which buried seven line rooms claiming thirty
nine lives and rendering hundreds homeless at 7:15 AM one that fateful
day.

“I lost everything I owned, loved and cherished including my daughter
and son in law” lamented sixty seven year old R Ramiah pointing to a
framed picture of the couple. “Nevertheless I am looking forward to
spend the rest of my life in a home of my own” he added with a sigh.

“The welfare center is too crowded and noisy. It is impossible for my
daughter to concentrate on her books. The teachers have complained
that she is not concentrating enough on her studies since we came
here. It is more than one and a half years since we lost our house
and we are looking forward to living in a house of our own said Ramiah
Indrani.

Mariah possibly in her sixties listened pensively to the others
relating their tales of woe with a faraway look on her face probably
thinking of her loving husband who remains buried under the since
that fateful day.

The only smiling faces I saw at the Mahakanda welfare center were on
the children who were at play oblivious to their parents worries and a
little dog who befriended me !

Today, wild elephants roam upon the mounds of earth that buried the
former homesteads of these unfortunate beings who lost all but live in
hope of livining in a house of their own again while the statue of
Hindu deity Mahamuni which is said to have stood eighteen feet tall
will remain on its side among the boulders with eyes transfixed on
the mountain side which buried many who paid homage to it.

This story was published in the Daily FT – http://www.ft.lk/article/537726/ft