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Front Page » January 18, 2005 » Local News » Tsunami impacts college student's family, friends
Published 3,911 days ago

Tsunami impacts college student's family, friends

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Dayana Nanda Siriwarthana, or better known as "Lucky" points out where his island home is. He is from Sri Lanka and his family has been greatly affected by the tsunami that came out of the Indian Ocean.

When the Tsunami hit the land masses around the Indian Ocean the day after Christmas, Carbon County residents were horrified by the news reports about the disaster.

The events were distant, but so immense that few people could fathom the number of victims killed and displaced by the disaster.

But for one young man living in the Price area, the events hit very close to home. College of Eastern Utah student Dayana Nanda Siriwarthana hails from the island country of Sri Lanka, which is located off the southwest coast of India.

"I also have a middle name, but it is so long that it would go off the end of the paper," explained the young man in a soft tone. "But I go by the name Lucky on campus."

Lucky is well-known at CEU. He is an amiable young man everyone seems to like. He has been away from his native land for a year, taking a dual major in business and pre-nursing at CEU.

Lucky's family is still in the island nation and he has talked with the members by telephone.

"My home is in a small town about 15 kilometers away from the west coast of the country," explained the college student. "Everyone in my family is fine, but not with my friends."

A number of the student's friends who live along the coast are missing and he has no way of knowing what has happened to them. In addition, the business his family has operated for years is virtually gone.

"My family had a distribution business," explained Lucky. "We sold goods to stores and people along the seacoast. Most of those businesses and people are gone now."

Lucky's family lived along the western shore of the island nation and the earthquake happed to the south and east. But the flooding from the waves was as bad as it was on the east coast.

The largest city, Colombo, was inundated by the Tsunami. Once a mecca for Australian and European tourists, the beaches in some places are destroyed and of course tourism has come to a complete halt. Present estimates put the death toll at over 40,000 people in a country with a population of 19 million. Over a million people are now without homes. A lot of the area around Columbo, including the infrastructure, communications, sanitation systems, and transportation, are mostly out of commission.

Lucky came to CEU through the help of a friend in California who pointed him in the direction of the eastern Utah college.

"I wanted to go to college in my country but the universities are very crowded and there is a lot of competition to get in," he says. "I worked hard to get to the United States so I could go to school here."

Sri Lanka exists in a tropical climate, so the cold winters in Utah were a new thing to Lucky when he came here last year.

"I don't mind it but my skin seemed to dry out a lot when I first came here," he said as he walked across campus to the library.

Lucky says he doesn't have a large family (his one brother helps his parents with the business) but relatives who lived on the coast and have lost their homes are now coming to stay with his family.

"This is a very hard time there," he says. "There are a lot of children that have lost their parents and there is so little money it is hard for others to take those children in. My parents can rebuild their business but those who lost relatives and friends can never get them back."

To make ends meet Lucky works in the cafeteria at CEU, but some of his supporters are concerned that he may have to go back home because of this disaster to his country and his families livelihood. But Lucky says he intends on staying and finishing his education.

"I think I will be alright," he said. "I just am worried about the people in my country."

Lucky says he is grateful to the many people and organizations in the United States that are sending aid to his country.

Locally, organizations are banding together to bring money in for relief efforts as well.

"What we are looking for are small contributions from a lot of people," says Kathy Murray of the CEU SUN Center. "We, along with the United Way and some other school organizations will be holding a Community Care event on Feb. 8 to generate money for the relief fund. We did have it scheduled at the BDAC, but a conflict arose so we will be moving it to another location."

Murray said that the program will include local talent and food that people can purchase. She also said that 100 percent of the money will be sent for relief efforts.

For more information about the event call Kathy Murray at (435) 613-5284.

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