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Hants sends social workers to devastated Sri Lanka

By Mark Smulian

Six Hampshire CC social workers have become the first UK council team to complete a tsunami relief mission.

They spent three weeks in a devastated area of Sri Lanka in May, working mainly with bereaved children.

Family support service manager Lynn Ludford led her team to Hambantota, a town which took the full force of the Boxing Day tsunami as tidal waves hit its seafront market.

She said: 'The devastation in towns was enormous.

'The tsunami struck at 9.18 am when the market was crowded and 5,000 people were swept into the sea.

'There are people who lost everything - jobs, homes, families - they don't even have photographs of them. It is all even worse than one expects.'

Hampshire's emergency planning officer Ian Hoult visited the island in March and returned 'with a clear remit of what was wanted, which was workshops for carers of children who had lost one or both parents', Ms Ludford explained.

The other team members were Caroline Munro, Mark Scott, Hayley Williams, Rosie Peart and Lorraine Hopkins. Their experience includes child protection, family therapy, bereavement and adult disability.

Ms Ludford said over 600 affected children were now being cared for.

'There is no sign of health epidemics and it all seemed very well regulated, but things are happening very slowly for people,' she said.

Mr Hoult said local officials were particularly keen to receive child social workers. Hambantota was a fishing port, but many children had become scared of the sea. This had to be tackled for the sake of the town's future.

'Other staff will be going there,' he said. 'There will be more social workers, but we are also looking at sanitation, waste management and waste water treatment work.'

Councils have been linked with partner district governments by the UK Local Government Alliance for International Development - an umbrella organisation for relief work.

Last week, the Local Government International Bureau advertised for councils that were interested in developing disaster relief and planning in Phuket, Thailand.

Relief effort for Sri Lanka

Councils and public sector partnerships linked with Sri Lankan district governments are:

Leeds City CouncilColombo

Merseyside ConsortiumGalle

Suffolk ConsortiumMatara

South Coast Consortium* Hambantota

Staffordshire ConsortiumAmpara

Essex ConsortiumMullaitivu

Kent ConsortiumBatticaloa

Scottish ConsortiumTrincomalee

* Hampshire CC, Portsmouth City Council, Southampton

City Council, Chichester DC

Local government partners are sought for six further districts.

Further information:

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