Engineer lends hand in tsunami cleanup

By ALLAN McNEILallanm@gladstoneobserver.com.au

FOR most Australians, the devastation of the Boxing Day tsunami was restricted to what we saw or read from the comfort of our lounge rooms.

But for James Mitchell, six weeks spent helping to rebuild devastated Sri-Lanka brought home the shocking magnitude of the disaster.

Mr Mitchell, who grew up in Gladstone and whose family still resides in the area, was called to Sri Lanka as an engineering consultant.

He said despite the devastation, he saw many locals trying to put their lives back together.

"It was a real mess obviously ? In some areas it was amazing to see that many people were trying to make the most of what remained of their house and reconstruct simple shelters,'' he said.

Mr Mitchell said part of his job was talking directly to those affected by the tsunami to determine what help they needed ? a task which was often emotional.

Mr Mitchell said while the physical force of the wave was the first thing he noticed, there were also signs of the tragic emotional impact.

"The structural damage which indicated the force of the wave was one thing but the more disturbing thing to see were the signs of life that were scattered throughout the ruins like kids toys and clothing...,'' he said.

For a full account of what Mr Mitchell saw, read the feature in this Saturday's Observer.



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