- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 30, 2004

Amid the chaos and grief surrounding the tsunami horror wrought on Asia have emerged some remarkable tales of survival, acts of courage and heartwarming generosity.

Dharamaraja, 15, led his brothers and sisters — ages 13, 10 and 8 — to safety before leaving them to discover the bodies of his parents, grandmother and two young sisters in a hospital morgue.

He buried them himself near their village in Sri Lanka, sparing his frightened brothers and sister the trauma.

“He says he has buried them near our village. I will go and see the grave,” his sister, Maghadevi, 13, sobbed.

Despite isolated instances of looting and theft, the disaster caused by the Sunday tsunami has brought out the best of the human spirit — examples of ordinary people battling the odds and reaching out to their fellow man.

Throughout the hardest-hit countries of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India, people have come forward to donate clothes and food while tending the wounded.

Others set about the more grisly task of disposing of the bloated corpses that litter beaches and streets and threaten public health.

“I heard that they needed some help, so I came,” said Sangitan Senaphan, a 20-year-old volunteer at a hospital in Phuket, Thailand.

The warm-hearted nature of Thai people was apparent across the paradise island.

“I just want to help people,” said hotel manager Khun Wan, who was offering free food and accommodation to foreign tourists struggling to cope in the aftermath of the tragedy.

As people tried to come to terms with livelihoods lost and family members dead or missing, chinks of light shone through the gloom.

In one rare tale of survival after the devastating tidal waves, badly bruised Meghna Rajshekhar, 13, was found alive after floating at sea on a door for two days.

Meghna was discovered Tuesday walking in a daze along a beach. She had clung to the piece of wood when giant waves swept her, her family and dozens of others off the Indian Ocean’s Car Nicobar island.

“This was a miracle in the midst of the disaster the tsunami wrought,” said V.V. Bandhopadhyay, the commander of the air base station on Nicobar.

Irene Nicastro of the Netherlands, who was forced to flee empty-handed as her hotel room in Galle in southern Sri Lanka filled with water, was touched by the generosity shown to her by locals.

“Despite their own losses, they took care of us,” she said, and pledged to raise money to help Sri Lankans cope with their losses when she gets to her wealthier lifestyle.

“This is the time to help these people who are so good and strong, truly strong,” she said.

In Indonesia, policeman Supardi Bin Kasdi turned up in Banda Aceh on Wednesday weather-beaten and shattered after a perilous five-hour journey through coprse-strewn waters in a small motorboat to bring word of desperate survivors in his village Calang.

“When I left them, they only had enough food for one day. I told my men to try to sustain themselves by eating coconuts, but they will only last for one day,” said the 43-year-old, exhausted and shaking with fear.

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