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Tsunami 'Baby 81' Parents Positively Identified


In Sri Lanka, a baby boy separated from his family in the December tsunami is to be reunited with his parents after a court accepted their claim to the child. The high-profile custody battle for the infant - known as "Baby 81" - has become a symbol of the thousands of families torn apart by the killer waves.

With a few short sentences, the agony of one family in Sri Lanka was over Monday.

"DNA test is positive. DNA test is positive." Those brief words by court official Mohammed Nazir in Kalmunai town in eastern Sri Lanka ended a traumatizing wait by the parents of a four-month old baby found in the debris from the December 26 tsunami.

The infant was nicknamed "Baby 81" because he was the 81st to be admitted to the Kalmunai Hospital in the hours after the disaster struck.

Media reports said nine couples originally claimed the infant at the hospital. But only one - the Jeyarajahs (Jenita and Murugupillai) - filed for formal custody. When they could not produce identity documents, which had been washed away in the disaster, the court last week ordered genetic DNA tests to prove the relationship.

The court says the baby will be handed over to the Jeyarajahs on Wednesday.

"Baby 81" became the symbol of the heart-wrenching agony that both parents and children have suffered from the tsunami.

Mrs. Jeyarajah says her son was torn from her arms by the giant waves that took away their home and belongings. They now live in a camp for survivors.

During the dramatic seven-week wait for their child, the Jeyarajahs pleaded, wept, threatened suicide and protested to get their child. The couple was even briefly arrested after they stormed into the hospital to take their baby back earlier this month.

But while this story ended happily for Baby 81 and his parents, others in Sri Lanka have not been so lucky.

United Nations children's fund spokesman in Colombo, Geoffery Keele, says the tsunami left behind thousands of grieving parents and orphans.

"In about 400 camps for displaced people around the country, almost 4,000 children have lost at least one parent and another 1,100 children have lost both parents," said Mr. Keele. "So there are thousands of children in this country who are going to be suffering."

More than a third of the 30,000 people who died in the country were young children who could not run away fast enough from the killer waves.