Byron Greens MP, Ian Cohen
Byron Greens MP, Ian Cohen

Greens MLC Ian Cohen survives tsunami


LIKE so many anxious families around the globe, Byron Bay's Greens mayor Jan Barham has spent every moment since Sunday's tsunamis praying the phone would ring and she would hear a loved one utter the words: "I'm alive."

At 3.30am yesterday, she got that call.

Speaking on a borrowed phone from the battered Sri Lankan coast, her closest friend and political ally, NSW Greens parliamentarian Ian Cohen left a message on Cr Barham's answering machine to say he had survived the tsunamis that have killed more than 27,000 and left millions homeless throughout India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia.

The last time Cr Barham had heard from Broken Head-based Mr Cohen was by email on Christmas Day, saying he would be 'in the water' on Boxing Day, just when the Tsunami hit.

Mr Cohen, a keen surfer, had left for Sri Lanka last week for a relaxing holiday in the popular surfing and diving resort town of Hikkaduwa, on the south-west Sri Lankan coast.

"I've been freaking out for two days," Cr Barham said.

"I've been watching the news.

"It's been pretty devastating, seeing images on the news of Hikkaduwa absolutely flattened.

"I heard from Ian on Christmas Day and the last thing he said was that he would be in the water surfing on Boxing Day."

Cr Barham said yesterday morning's phone call from Mr Cohen was very brief, with no explanation of how he had survived or what horrific sights he must have witnessed.

"I don't even know where he rang from, but I'm so relieved. It's been devastating. Now I'll just be here waiting around until he gets a chance to call again.

"This was supposed to be a fun surfing trip for him after a very bad year in Parliament. He was only going to be there for a couple of weeks," Cr Barham said.

"So much for him having a quiet holiday."

Cr Barham said that while she was still very worried about Mr Cohen she knew exactly how he would be handling the situation.

"He will be a great person to have there, a really good person to have on the ground," she said.

"I know what he's like. He'll be helping people.

"When things get stressful Ian keeps his cool."

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