Christian Ubertini


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TWELVE FAMILIES, TRINCOMALEE, SRI LANKA (Text: Aline Andrey, photos: David Prêtre/Strates)

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In September 2007, three years after the Tsunami, the journalist Aline Andrey and the photograph David Prêtre, meet with the beneficiaries of the housing reconstruction program that the Swiss Red Cross is about to complete, after having helped more than 4’500 families to replace their devastated huts with brick-built houses.

These meetings are presented in a book portraying twelve ordinary families, narrating their daily life in their new solid and comfortable premises, which doesn’t heal all wounds. In fact, despite the obvious step forward that provides a new house, each person lives this experience in a different way. The real escapees, marked for life, remain clinging to a raft-like existence. Among them are the inconsolable ones, those who have been permanently hurt by the death of someone close. The others, more or less spared, have simply seen the Tsunami adding to the growing day to day economic problems, fears and pressure from all sides. However, the majority of the beneficiaries seem to have accepted this “betrayal”, which came from the ocean. Revisiting the sea, returning to the beach, ceasing to be afraid, all this will take time. And a new tidal-wave is always possible. The proof of this formal warning of a tsunami on the 12th September 2007. It revived the pain and made the entire population flee to the highlands. A good shelter for all Sri Lankans of whom the great majority simply do not know how to swim.

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