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Sri Lanka erects 100 tsunami warning towers

Lanka's first early warning tower will be put into action in southern town of Hikkaduwa, a key center of the country's beach tourism.

india Updated: Dec 26, 2006 11:47 IST

Sri Lanka on Tuesday marked the anniversary of the 2004 tsunami that killed 35,000 people on the island by erecting the first of 100 coastal warning towers and offering Buddhist hymns for the dead.

All motor vehicles, except for ambulances, came to a standstill at the moment the killer waves crashed ashore— at 9:25 am— for two minutes to mark the tragedy.

"We have requested all the people to join this countrywide campaign to honor those tsunami victims" Sarath Lal Kumara spokesman of the Disaster Management Ministry said.

The ministry took the initiative to declare December 26 "National Safety Day" as part of an effort to promote safety by educating people about disasters.

The country's first early warning tower will be put into action in the southern town of Hikkaduwa, a key center of the country's beach tourism that was battered by the tsunami.

The 11.5-metre steel tower will have 16 loud speakers connected by telephone with the island's main disaster management center in the capital, Colombo.

In the event of an impending disaster, warnings will be broadcast through the megaphones.

The government plans to erect 99 other towers all along the coast.

"Our intention is to use them not only as tsunami warning towers, but also for all other disasters, including floods, landslides," Kumara said.

After Indonesia, Sri Lanka was the country worst affected by the tsunami.

The separatist Tamil Tiger rebels accused the Sri Lankan government of neglecting Tamil-majority areas.

"In the Tamil homeland, even now, assistance to the people devastated by the tsunami has not progressed beyond the temporary shelter phase," The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, said in a statement.

"Tamil people are increasingly doubtful if, they will ever get permanent homes or their destroyed cities will ever be rebuilt," said the statement, adding that 17,000 Tamils were killed by the waves.

Soon after the tsunami, the rebels and the government had agreed to work together to rebuild areas in the northeast, but the deal fell through because nationalist Sinhalese groups opposed allowing rebels to get direct foreign aid.

Also Tuesday, President Mahinda Rajapaksa is scheduled to unveil a statue of Buddha, a shorter replica of a Buddha sculpture in Afghanistan's Bamiyan province that was destroyed in 2001.

The statue is in the seaside town of Peraliya, where a train with more than 1,000 people was swept away by the tsunami.

Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers destroyed the fabled fifth-century Buddhas in March 2001, disregarding worldwide protests to spare the archaeological treasures that were built into soaring cliffs of the Bamiyan Valley.

First Published: Dec 26, 2006 11:47 IST