The Yala National Park was indefinitely closed after around 250 holiday makers and other visitors fell victim to Sunday’s tsunami which struck the coastal areas. Prior to the incident around 250 vehicles had entered the National Park. However, only around 30 vehicles had left the Park by Sunday.
The waves completely destroyed the Patanangala Park Bungalow belonging to the Department of Wildlife. Six members of the staff including two volunteers are reported dead.
The Yala Safari Lodge at Palatupana was also destroyed. At the time of the disaster a group of 17 Japanese visitors and other foreign tourists had been resident in the lodge. All are reported killed including the Manager of the lodge and all the staff members barring one.
Jagath Kumara Kariyawasam, the Assistant Chef of the lodge who survived said that he saw around 20 foot high thundering waves rolling towards the lodge.
On seeing this spectacle from the kitchen window he had rushed outside and climbed on a tree. He had also managed to save one foreign child who had been thrown onto an overhanging branch by the waves.
Residents said around 70 bodies had been recovered -mostly foreigners- stuck in the mud amidst thickets or hanging from trees. The personal belongings of the visitors as well as the furniture of both the Park Bungalow and Safari Lodge and been washed away and stuck in the lagoons. Also stuck in the lagoon were many vehicles. Deputy Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Bandula Basnayake visited the area.
Director General of the Department of Wildlife Conservation Dayananda Kariyawasam rushed to the Yala National Park and was at the site till late night December 26 instructing and helping with the rescue operations.