Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

MOTHER WHO LOST EVERYONE; London Lecturer on Holiday in Sri Lanka Survives the Tsunami. but Her Husband, Two Children and Parents Are All Killed I Watched as My Whole Family Was Swept Away

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

MOTHER WHO LOST EVERYONE; London Lecturer on Holiday in Sri Lanka Survives the Tsunami. but Her Husband, Two Children and Parents Are All Killed I Watched as My Whole Family Was Swept Away

Article excerpt

Byline: LECH MINTOWT-CZYZ

A LONDON academic lost her entire family to the Asian tsunami, it emerged today.

Dr Sonali Deraniyagala, 40, on holiday in Sri Lanka, saw the giant wave wash away the car her husband-and two sons were sitting in.

In an instant of appalling tragedy for the economics lecturer, both her parents were taken by the water at the same moment.

The bodies of Dr Deraniyagala's parents, Gemini and Edward Deraniyagala, and her elder son Vikram, seven, have been found but she does not know whether the remains of five-year-old Nikhil will ever be recovered.

The body of her 40-year-old husband, fellow academic Dr Steve Lissenburgh, has also still to be found. In desperat ion Dr Deraniyagala, a lecturer at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies placed an advertisement in a Sri Lankan newspaper appealing for information about her family but she has yet to receive any news.

The heartrending advertisement included a photograph of Nikhil and said: "Last seen at Yala Safari Hotel on 26 December 2004. Nikhil is five years old and three and a half feet tall with black hair and black eyes. He may be dazed and confused and unable to express himself. He cannot speak in Sinahala or Tamil. He can respond only in English." The family had been making their usual Christmas trip to visit Dr Deraniyagala's mother and father in Colombo when tragedy struck.

The family were staying at the Yala Safari Game Lodge, a coastal wildlife reserve, and had stopped off in their four-by-four. It is understood Dr Lissenburgh and the two children were still in the vehicle and were carried away.

Dr Deraniyagala, who is thought to have got out, was also swept up by the force of the water and survived-despite being carried several miles inland by the torrent. It is not known where her parents were at the time of the disaster.

Dr Deraniyagala's uncle Ken Baledera, who lives in Sri Lanka, said: "With the time that has now passed we do not think there is much more that can be done. We have given up hope of seeing them again.

"The tragedy is so heavy we can barely bring ourselves to speak about it. My niece cannot speak about it at all.

"She has not even been able to tell us exactly what happened. Really all we know is that they were all in the reserve and the water just took them all away with it. We do not know how, but she managed to escape without serious injury. But she is severely traumatised."

More than 30,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka by the Boxing Day tsunami.

Today friends and colleagues of Dr Lissenburgh, 40, a senior researcher at the Policy Studies Institute who focused on the social aspects of economics, paid tribute to a man who "inspired affection and admiration in all who knew him". …

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