Bridge Building

MATARA, Sri Lanka, Dec 26, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka marked Wednesday the third anniversary of the devastating Asian tsunami by opening a showpiece bridge in the south of the island where 31,000 people died. President Mahinda Rajapakse formally commissioned the 116-metre (383 feet) bridge across the Nilwala river here in this southern coastal town of Matara 160 kilometers (100 miles).

Rajapakse observed two minutes of silence at 9.25 am, the time when the first giant waves lashed the coastline in a disaster that also displaced a million people on the island.

Rajapakse later followed three school bands across the six-lane bridge, the widest in the country, that was damaged during the tsunami on December 26, 2004. South Korea gifted the seven-million-dollar structure.

Sri Lanka declared the anniversary “national safety” day,” said disaster management minister Mahinda Samarasinghe.

The ministry which is tasked with organising post-tsunami reconstruction work announced island-wide ceremonies to create awareness on how to deal with such disasters in the future.

Sri Lanka’s post-tsunami reconstruction work has been dogged by graft and renewed fighting that has blocked relief to survivors,