London, Dec. 26 (ANI): Former England cricket captain Sir Ian Botham recently revisited Seenigama, near Galle in Sri Lanka, which faced the brunt of the December 26, 2004 Asian Tsunami that claimed the lives of 33,500 Sri Lankans alone.
Today, there is a 100 foot tall Tsunami Memorial at the site, and while life does not return to normal for those who experienced the horrors of that day in 2004, Botham feels sport has played a major part in healing at least some of those wounds, both mental and physical.
Sir Ian Botham visited the area in April 2005 with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and was so moved by what he saw and heard of the disaster that he helped to initiate the Seenigama Sport for Life project, which organises sporting activities and competitions across five villages.
This month, Botham took time off from his commentating duties on England's tour of South Africa to return to the region .
"When I came here a few weeks after the disaster, it was so different to what you see now.The roads were barely passable and all the bridges were gone. Vehicles were washed away, houses were flattened. They were still dragging bodies out of the swamp months later. he stretch of railway line near Seenigama was horrendous. We went to see where a train carriage had been hit. When the first wave struck, it was three feet high, so the locals packed the elderly, women and children like sardines on to the train, thinking they'd be safe," the Daily Express quotes Botham, as saying.
"Then the larger second wave came in at 170 mph and they were all trapped inside - 1,500 people died on that train. Can you imagine the horror of seeing that wave coming?
"Then you speak to the survivors and it's just horrific. They'd say, 'I had to let go of my son to save my daughter' or, 'I had to let go of my father to save my mother' - story after story of heartbreak. It was very, very moving."
Words of condolence were not enough for Botham, though.
As is clear from his leukaemia charity walks, Botham is a man of action and he has been instrumental in securing facilities and equipment for youngsters to play volleyball and cricket at the Seenigama Sports Academy and swim in the Bryan Adams Swimming Pool Complex.
"The project is working and it means so much to me. I keep coming back to see how far it's gone and how far it can go," he says .
Botham is one of the 46 members of the Laureus World Sports Academy - sporting legends, who volunteer their services as global ambassadors for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. (ANI)