Tsunami aftermath ‘surreal’ - Metro US

Tsunami aftermath ‘surreal’

It’s been five years since the Asian tsunami devastated the Indian Ocean coastline and Steve Armstrong still remembers what he witnessed like it happened yesterday.

It was Dec. 26, 2004, when a massive tsunami hit Southeast Asia, killing 225,000 people and destroying millions of other lives in the process.

Armstrong, then a delegate of the Canadian Red Cross, flew to Sri Lanka a few months after the tragedy and helped start the emergency disaster relief process.

“It was very strange, kind of surreal,” said the provincial director of the Red Cross. “Normal life was happening a couple hundred metres from disaster and that was quite remarkable to see.”

Armstrong spent seven months in Sri Lanka building more than 6,500 homes, repairing hospitals and community centres, restoring lost livelihoods and helping train thousands of disaster response volunteers.

Even though the disaster was far away, Albertans raised more than $21 million and the provincial government pitched in another $5 million for the relief efforts.

“It was a significant component of the national fundraising efforts,” Armstrong said. “In Canada we raised somewhere around $360 million, which was the largest per capita campaign in the world.”

Between 95 and 97 per cent of that money has been spent and the remaining money is going towards programming to help the new communities get back on their feet.

Armstrong said Albertans can still help by donating to the Red Cross or any other charitable group.

“There’s need here and there’s need in lots of other places,” he said.

“We would ask the people to take a look around and see what’s of interest and contact us or any other reputable organization.”

Albertans interested in learning more about the Red Cross and how to contribute can visit www.redcross.ca.

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