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Rough Cut
Cursed by the Gods

 

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Length: 14:25

Jonathan Jones and Krista Mahr

Krista Mahr and Jonathan Jones were reporting in Cambodia when the Asian tsunami struck in December. Both graduated from the U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism in May 2005. Mahr is currently editing Iceland Review and Atlantica magazines in Reykjavik, Iceland. Since 2003, Jones has reported from Kenya, Uganda, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. He now covers religion and culture for ANG Newspapers.

Six months after the devastating tsunami killed more than 200,000 people in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and other Indian Ocean nations, scientists and officials from the region agreed last week at a U.N. conference in Paris to establish a tsunami warning system.

This week on "Rough Cut," we travel to the island nation of Sri Lanka, where 31,000 people perished and half a million were left homeless from a series of giant waves caused by an earthquake on the ocean floor that measured between 9.0 and 9.3 on the Richter scale.

FRONTLINE/World reporter Jonathan Jones and producer Krista Mahr journey to Sri Lanka's eastern coast, one of the most ravaged areas, to see how people are coping with twin disasters: the tsunami and a civil war that has wracked the country for decades.

Once a British colony known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka has been called a jewel dangling off the southern tip of India. But the beautiful country has long suffered from a brutal civil war between a largely Buddhist Sinhalese government and a Hindu Tamil minority. A fragile ceasefire was finally negotiated with the help of Norway three years ago. But as Jones and Mahr discover, when the tsunami struck on December 26, 2004, many war-weary Sri Lankans felt they must be "cursed by the gods."

As they make their way through tsunami-destroyed coastal hamlets, Jones and Mahr -- two backpacking reporters just out of U.C. Berkeley journalism school -- meet a local relief group dedicated to helping all Sri Lankans, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. They follow Logitha Thangathurai, a young woman who immerses herself in aid work as a distraction from the loss of her niece who drowned in the waves.

The reporters also encounter people who swear they can hear the voices of the dead. The question is whether this national trauma -- the tsunami grief -- is enough for the Sinhalese and the Tamils to put aside their differences and rebuild their country, or whether the old political divisions will doom reconstruction.

REACTIONS

Haslina Bujang - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
It is good if all the nations unite in order to enhance the tsunami warning system globally. Tsunamis can't be prevented but anyway a warning system can prevent from losing many lives.