Vihara holds prayers for tsunami victims

Sri Lankan Buddhists try to come to terms with disaster

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Sri Lankan Buddhists from all over London have congregated in Chiswick to hold a prayer session or puja for the victims of the Tsunami which has killed thousands of people around the Indian Ocean.

The London Buddhist Vihara on the Avenue is the main temple for Sri Lankans in the U.K. Sri Lanka was one of the worst hit countries.

Venerable Dr Medagama Vajiranana, Britain’s most senior Buddhist monk, was quoted in the Times as saying, “It is very traumatic for people living here as they are trying to contact their relatives and friends by telephone but they often aren’t working and it is difficult for them to get in touch.”

The death toll from what may be the worst ever natural disaster is currently put at 120,000 although it is feared that the final amount could be more than that.

There are some unconfirmed reports that some of the Sri Lankan nationals working at the Somerfield store on Chiswick High Road have lost relatives in the disaster. The store is taking donations on behalf of the appeal.

Among the charities raising money are:

OXFAM (0870 3332500): has sent 60 1,000-litre water tankers to Trincomalee, one of the worst-affected areas, and is preparing 25,000 food packs and 10,000 packs of essentials such as soap, candles and matches. It is distributing sleeping mats, sheeting and food and flying in flood experts from Bangladesh.

RED CROSS (08705 125125): its emergency response unit is on standby to fly in. Volunteers trained in disaster response have been evacuating affected areas and giving first aid.

UNICEF (0845 7312312): providing emergency health supplies, oral rehydration salts, high-protein biscuits and shelter. In the longer term, educational, health and sanitation supplies will be required.

CAFOD (0500 858885): the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development is working on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka, the Tamil area of India and in the southern coast of Thailand.

SAVE THE CHILDREN (020 -7012 6400): has staff working along the coast from Jaffna in the far north down to Galle in the south. A spokeswoman said: “We are providing food as well as sheets, candles and detergent to 33,000 families.” The Norwegian Government has donated £500,000.

CHRISTIAN AID (020-7620 4444): has sent £250,000 to Sri Lanka and India.

SRI LANKA HIGH COMMISSION (020-7262 6721/ 1841): all financial contributions should be sent to Sri Lanka High Commission (Disaster Relief), 13 Hyde Park Gardens, London W2 2LU.

January 3, 2005