Accessibility links

Breaking News

Bill Clinton Tours Tsunami-Devastated Sri Lanka


Former President Clinton says Sri Lankan leaders have made real progress by returning more than 90 percent of children to school and providing shelter to thousands of people displaced by the deadly tsunami.

But Mr. Clinton warned that much still needs to be done, such as providing jobs to the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their livelihood as a result of the deadly waves.

Mr. Clinton is in Sri Lanka as U.N. special envoy for tsunami recovery. He is also expected to visit the Indonesian province of Aceh on Wednesday.

During his two-day visit, he went to the tsunami-ravaged parts of eastern Sri Lanka, near the city of Trincomalee. There, officials say, he visited a mosque where he paid respects to children killed by the deadly waves. He also met with fishermen to examine the effect of the tsunami on livelihoods.

More than 30,000 people were killed in Sri Lanka when the tsunami swept onto the shores of 12 Indian Ocean countries.

The disaster brought an outpouring of aid from around the world. Almost a year after the deadly waves hit, members of the aid community are reassessing how the international community responds to humanitarian crises.

Al Panico, the head of operations for the Sri Lanka office of the International Federation of the Red Cross, speaking before Mr. Clinton's visit, said the international community could be better prepared for coping with disasters, no matter where they strike.

"The message after this trip is to keep focused on disaster mitigation and preventing disasters from killing so many people and to help build systems for that… And also to help other disasters, like Pakistan and to bring focus to areas that perhaps do not have the level of focus that we have had," said Mr. Panico.

The former president also met with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse, who was elected earlier this month. Mr. Rajapakse, a known hardliner toward the rebels, has suggested scrapping a three-year-old peace initiative with the separatist Tamil Tiger guerrilla group in favor of a new plan, which he has yet to outline.

The two sides have fought a bitter, two-decade conflict over rights for the ethnic Tamil minority.

But Mr. Clinton warned that progress in the tsunami recovery could be quickly reversed if Sri Lanka returned to its ethnically fueled civil war that has killed more than 60,000 people.