I’m sitting here in my nearly empty hotel, after being one of only two people in the restaurant. At 2:49 this afternoon, as I was on safari in Yala National Park in Sri Lanka, the government ordered all tourists evacuated from the area. An 8.8 magnitude earthquake off the Sumatran coast triggered fears of a tsunami. In 2004, Sri Lanka lost 30,000 people, including many tourists, as a result of a similar earthquake near Sumatra. In that tsunami, most of the damage occurred along the southern and south-western coastal areas.
I was driven 60 miles inland to higher ground, but there was no panic among the locals, but a lot among the tourists. I waited for hours past the prime time when the tsunami was predicted to hit, then returned to my hotel near the coast along with my driver and translator, Susil, who had dinner with me. If you look at the map, you’ll find Yala on the southeastern side. I am presently staying between Yala and Tissamaharama. After my safaris, I’ll spend the Buddhist New Year’s celebration photographing at a Buddhist temple in Tissa, as locals call the town.
Now we’re on watch, just in case of a major aftershock, buit that is considered so unlikely we were allowed to return. I have to get up at 4:30AM to be back at the magnificent Yala NP for sunrise.