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Chinese healing hands in tsunami-hit Sri Lanka

XinhuaNet, Jan 6, 2005

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Fourteen pairs of Chinese healing hands Tuesday were seen in a bid to soothe people's pain and sorrow in Hikkaduwa, a small town some 90 km off Colombo, the capital of tsunami-stricken Sri Lanka.

Wang Bingqiang, head of the 14-member Chinese medical squad, told Xinhua,"we are here to relieve the Sri Lankan people."

It was at the Jananandaramaya temple, a renown Buddhism site in the area. The Chinese medics set up their workshop on the back yard of the temple and behind the workshop lie the five make-shift tents, where they accommodate at night.

Some 700 refugees of the town of 15,000 take shelter at the temple and they get food and drinking water daily from the local government. The aid supply is a part of foreign relief goods flooding into the island nation.

Power at the temple was on and the water supply restored, which made the medical aid work possible.

The first patient approached at around 9:20 local time. P. H. Kusumawathe, 63, hurt her right foot on Dec. 26 when she was trying to run away from her house to flee the vaulting tidal waves, which claimed 4,000 lives in Hikkaduwa and nearly 30,000 across the nation.

Xia Jiyong, 39, a surgeon with a 17-year experience, checked the situation of the aged lady and cleared up her wounds. Through the help of a local volunteer who speaks broken English, the surgeon requested the lady to keep her feet clean.

Kusumawathe was among scores of patients at present who are suffering from foot or leg injuries due to their rushing flee of the tsunami disaster.

Xia and two other surgeons in the team were kept busy all the morning to deal with those injured.

A two-year baby screamed so bitterly in his mum's arms and doctor Zhao Xinyan, who was treating him, was trapped in a dilemma.

He was supposed to offer the baby a pill of anti-biotics, yet the pill will possibly be too strong for the baby. "Halve it and take them one in the morning and the other in the evening," Zhao told the mother.

The mother was trying to wipe tears off the baby's face and Zhao passed her a piece of tissue paper. "Use this," the doctor tenderly demanded.

Drema Manawadu, a 49-year-old village house wife had hurt her left arm in the tsunami hit. She, however, was not crying for the physical pain.

Her husband was buried alive in the collapsed building and her aged parents remained missing.

"Luckily my son and daughter survived along with me," Drema told Ding Ying, the Chinese nurse who was tying a bandage on her injured arm. Tears were in the eyes of both ladies.

Ding Ying had served in Africa as a medical aid worker and the gloomy scene here in the once-attractive resort still shocked her.

"We can fix their injured feet at this moment but who's going to offer them foot-wares to keep the feet from being hurt once again?" said the nurse.

Not all the patients were tsunami victims. A. Dammaratana. a Buddhism acolyte dressed in dark-red robe came to the Chinese medics with an uncomfortable throat. For five days the monk felt painful even when sipping water.

Doctor Zhao Xinyan gave him a pill and demanded him to rest more and take more water.

Loud speakers at the temple were urging locals to approach for medical aid. N. Samradheera, an coordinating officer with the local health authority, said he has directed rickshaws carrying loud speakers to patrol around the town informing the people of the presence of Chinese doctors.

Hundreds in town are feared dead during the tidal wave hit and thousands might have been injured. "More patients are expected to flock here soon,"said the official.

Patients expressed their gratitude to the Chinese medics. One of them offered to donate his gas stove to the Chinese for their cooking.

One local volunteer has been doing the interpretation job for the team and people in the neighborhood who speak English also came to help.

Wang Bingqiang, the squad leader, told Xinhua that the medicine they have brought here are not sufficient and the local health authority pledged to lend a helping hand.

Meanwhile, another Chinese medical squad is expected to arrive in the country on Thursday and hopefully will bring in more medicine.

Wang's team landed in Colombo late on Sunday and entered the tsunami-affected area on early Monday.

Coming from the snowy Beijing, all the Chinese team members were bathing in the scorching weather here when working.

"We don't want to save our sweat. We want to save people's blood," said Wang Bingqiang.

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