Tsunami survivors in a sprawling relocation village in eastern Sri Lanka held no memorials Sunday to mark the six-month anniversary of the disaster that destroyed many of their homes and families, saying they want to leave the bitter memories behind and look to the future.
Some were busy laying foundations for new homes being built by a private relief group, while others mixed concrete or worked in vegetable gardens or small shops.
"I heard on the radio that today is the six-month anniversary," said 60-year-old Vairamuttu Kandasamy, who lost his wife to the raging waves on his 35th wedding anniversary.
He also lost a daughter and three grandchildren and now lives alone in a hut, one of dozens of temporary tin-roofed and thatched sheds that dot a vast stretch of sandy land in the Pasikkudah Model Village. The Dec. 26 Indian Ocean tsunami killed 31,000 Sri Lankans and displaced about 1 million more.
Kandasamy's entire fishing village was relocated to Pattiadichchenai, several hundred meters from the sea, because of a government ban on reconstruction within 200 meters (yards) of the sea.
The villagers did not organize any memorials to mark the six-month anniversary.
"The dead are gone now and the lost belongings are lost. Now we have to look after the survivors," said Kandasamy, who heads a group of 40 families in the village.
In a special place in his hut, Kandasamy keeps a black-and-white picture of his wife which he says was taken 30 years ago. He survived the waves by climbing a coconut tree with one of his granddaughters.
Kandasamy spends his time building a new home with concrete blocks and is proud of having laid a strong foundation all by himself, digging deep into the sandy ground.
Kanagasooriyam Velmurugu, 28, who lost his parents, his wife of six months, and 25 other extended family members, was devastated after the disaster but has begun to accept the reality and now is looking to the future. Coming from a family of bicycle repairers, he has started working in another man's shop and hopes he will be able to set up his own shop in the future.
Palaniandi Arumugam is also working again, growing chilies and onions on a plot close to the village, but complains of having to live in a tin-roofed house under the scorching sun.
"It is with God's grace that our children have survived any disease in this sun," said Arumugam, a father of four. He is waiting impatiently for December, when the relief group has promised to complete the new houses.