South Asia Sri Lanka Travels

Sea Train and the Broken Clock

The Southern coastal railway line in Sri Lanka almost inseparably kisses the Indian Ocean throughout its path. While travelling along the coastal road from Colombo to Galle, I thought about the cathartic backdrop the commuting locals are treated with. The rhythmic sounds of the train harmonizing with the music of the crashing waves under the cool embrace of the soothing sea breeze.

‘Lucky people!’ is what I thought! Until I heard about this…

Sri Lankan Railway Line Map
Sri Lankan Rail Map. Image from ResearchGate

En route to Galle from Colombo, our driver Chaturanga, stopped at the Tsunami Museum in Hikkaduwa. The museum houses photographs taken during and after the 2004 Tsunami that caused casualties across the coastal districts of Sri Lanka.

Photography was not allowed in the museum and the stern voice of the caretaker who explained the disaster demanded every bit of our attention. 

The 9.1-9.3 magnitude earthquake that had jolted a region in Sumatra, Indonesia, triggered waves up to 3 meters that hit the coast of Sri Lanka. The water had entered the village of Hikkaduwa but in just 20 minutes, it was back into the ocean again without causing much damage. Except when it went back, it went 50-100 meters further deep into the shoreline leaving the villagers awed and curious.

As the unsuspecting villagers moved closer to inspect this unusual phenomenon, the real disaster was waiting for them. This time the tsunami waves rose to a mighty 10 meters and crashed into the region at a demonic speed of 800kmph, leaving an unprecedented trail of destruction.

The Tsunami Honganji Buddha Statue, Hikkaduwa.
The Tsunami Honganji Buddha Statue, Hikkaduwa.

No structures big or small could survive the waves. And the railway line that was kissing the coast with all its affection suffered her wrath that day as about 1700 people in a passing by train were killed resulting in the deadliest recorded train disaster in history! 

As I heard this story, I looked into a piece of artifact stored in the museum. It was a broken clock that stood frozen from the shock of the disaster – its time-gliding wings stopped at 9:26 am and the day was 26/12/2004. As I stood gazing at the clock – my thought about the sea train and its views haunted me.

‘Lucky people!?’

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Author

  • Sundaram Venkateshwaran

    Sundaram Venkateshwaran is an inquisitive learner who loves to understand places, people and cultures through his journeys. If being bombared with meaningful questions and having deep conversations is your thing, he is the person to grab a coffee with. Through his writing, he shares stories from his journeys and conversations that impacted him the most.

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Sundaram Venkateshwaran

Sundaram Venkateshwaran is an inquisitive learner who loves to understand places, people and cultures through his journeys. If being bombared with meaningful questions and having deep conversations is your thing, he is the person to grab a coffee with. Through his writing, he shares stories from his journeys and conversations that impacted him the most.

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24 Comments

  1. Pooja says:

    Beautifully written, could visualise every bit of it. Congratulations✨

    1. Glad you could visualise my writing.Thanks a lot, Pooja!

  2. Lisa says:

    I didn’t know about this catastrophy! Thanks for teaching me. Too bad that you couldn’t take a picture of the clock. Amazingly written.

    1. Ya, would have been something if I could have added the photo of the clock at the end. Thanks a lot, Lisa!

  3. Zainab says:

    Kudos to the succinct & captivating writing. Takes one places. Loved it!

  4. This story was mind-blowing… More due to the fact that it was so mesmerising to read. Beautiful choice of words!

    1. Amutha Kannan says:

      Great job. Picked good words for piqued pilgrim. I managed to catch the glimpses of that day and I could feel it.

      1. Thanks a lot, Amudha aunty!

    2. The compliment coming from such a seasoned blogger and a writer fills me with joy! Thanks a ton, Ananya!

  5. R Kannan says:

    Fantastic

    1. Thank you, Kannan uncle!

  6. Shwetha Subramanyam says:

    Beautifully written. Eloquent article. Could immerse in the story and visualise the entire journey. More so the railwayline kissing the coast with all its affection. Heartwrenching to learn about this catastrophic incident.

    1. Thanks, Shwetha! Really appreciate the time and efforts to read and drop a beautiful comment!

  7. Vinay says:

    Well written Sundaram! Looking forward to reading the next few blogs from your Sri Lanka Trip!

    1. Thanks a lot, Vinay!❤️

  8. Prithivika says:

    So well written Sundaram. The whole journey had be gripped throughout without one drop of interest flowing elsewhere. Thank you for sharing snippets from your travel journey which we can now read through your words.

    1. Mighty thanks, Prithvika! It feels really great when your words and writing can resonate with a person who’s reading the piece.

  9. Dilruba says:

    Loved the flow of blog, well written! Keep them coming !

    1. Thanks a lot, Dil!

  10. What an absolute joy to read and see it almost :)) thank you pilgrims 🙂

    1. Thanks a lot, Laxmi!❤️

  11. Sampath C says:

    Beautiful work, Sundaram. All the best!

    1. Thanks a lot, Sampath! ❤️

  12. Mighty thanks, buddy! Means a lot.

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