Dr Sumith Pathirana, his wife Chandi and their daughters.He flew home from Sri Lanka just before the tsunami hit.
Dr Sumith Pathirana, his wife Chandi and their daughters.He flew home from Sri Lanka just before the tsunami hit.

Dad came home - and missed tsunami

By SAMANTHA TURNBULL

HIS three girls' Christmas plea saved Sumith Pathirana from being caught in Asia's devastating tsunamis that have killed more than 16,500 people.

The Alstonville university lecturer was researching climate change along the Sri Lankan coastline last week, just days before the area was swamped by a 10-metre-high tidal wave.

Dr Pathirana, 52, was back in Alstonville on Saturday, but only because his daughters had demanded his return for Christmas.

"I wanted him home because it's not normal to have Christmas without the whole family," said youngest daughter, Sachi, 13. "We've never had Christmas without him."

Dr Pathirana was not planning to return to Australia until tomorrow.

Now, he and wife, Chandi, are in a state of shock, but are relieved their close family members still living in Sri Lanka escaped unharmed.

The latest estimated death tolls are 4891 in Sri Lanka, 4600 India, 4448 Indonesia, 431 Thailand, 44 Malaysia, 10 Myanmar and one in Bangladesh.

No Australians have been reported dead, but five were still missing last night.

Yesterday, Dr Pathirana said his mother and two brothers were in Colombo, and another brother in Matara, when the tsunami struck.

Mrs Pathirana's father, brother and sister were also in Colombo.

Although the two cities were among the worst hit, all of the Pathiranas' relatives were far enough away from the coast to avoid the impact.

"We were worried at first because we didn't get any messages from them, but we finally got a hold of them about 9pm on Sunday," Mrs Pathirana said.

One of Dr Pathirana's brothers spoke to him on the phone of the destruction the waves had caused.

"My brother's sister-in-law's house was completely destroyed," he said.

"She heard a noise and opened the door and water came flooding in ? they're OK, but all they have are the clothes they were wearing.

"Some water came about two kilometres inland and there were cars upside down."



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