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Nine women claim baby in Lankan hospital

The battle over 'Baby 81' symbolises the enormous loss in the December 26 tsunami disaster.
PTI | By Associated Press, Colombo
UPDATED ON JAN 15, 2005 02:50 PM IST

The infant dubbed "Baby 81" nurses from a bottle of milk and kicks playfully at a pink blanket as nine desperate, heartbroken women quarrel over him — all claiming he was torn from them by last month's tsunami.

One man standing outside the nursery at Kalmunai Base Hospital threatened to kill himself and his wife if they are not given the baby. A woman at the hospital said she would kill the doctors if he is not returned to her.

The battle over the wide-eyed boy, who appears to be about three or four-months-old, symbolises the enormous loss in the December 26 tsunami disaster.

Children accounted for a staggering 40 per cent — or 12,000 — of Sri Lanka's death toll of nearly 31,000. In all, nearly 160,000 people have died across southern Asia.

The loss is especially keenly felt in Amparai district, where the fight over "Baby 81" is taking place. There were 10,436 people killed in Ampara, the highest in Sri Lanka.

The infant, bruised and covered in mud but otherwise healthy, was brought to the hospital hours after the tsunami struck Kalmunai, a remote town in eastern Sri Lanka populated by Muslims and Tamils. It was partly cut off after a major bridge was swept away by the deadly waves.

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