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Kohl: Sri Lanka destruction like World War II bombing

AFP, December 30, 2004

BERLIN, Germany -- Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who was evacuated from his seaside Sri Lankan vacation hotel when the Indian Ocean tsunami hit, said the devastation reminded him of World War II bombing.

In an interview published Thursday, Kohl, 74, recounted what he saw before a Sri Lankan air force helicopter lifted him and his entourage Tuesday out of the island's south, a resort are that was one of the areas worst hit by the raging waves.

``On Sunday morning at about 9 a.m. I stood on the balcony and saw that the sea was changing. It sounded very different,'' Kohl wrote in Germany's Bild daily. ``Then a huge wave rose up. This wave developed enormous power.''

``People were running around screaming. The wave ripped everything away. Wooden huts and buildings that were not solidly built were just washed away.''

Kohl said he was on the third floor of a hotel outside Galle, Sri Lanka's second-largest city, when the waters struck.

``Only when we saw that the entire lower and second floors of our hotel were flooded did we realize the full extent of the catastrophe,'' he said. ``It brought back images of the war, which I lived through as a boy. It looked like after a heavy bombardment.''

Kohl said he would stay in Sri Lanka for the time being to see whether he could help with relief efforts.

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