A WOMAN from St Helens who travelled to Sri Lanka for a meditation holiday found herself caught up in the devastating tsunami which has claimed the lives of 145,000 people.
Nisha Srivastava had been backpacking around inland Sri Lanka since the beginning of December.
She was staying in a fishing harbour called Marissa when the tidal waves struck.
"The experience is one I will never forget. It has affected me emotionally, mentally and spiritually," said Marissa,
"I did feel a sense of guilt when I left Sri Lanka, because I was able to walk away while others have lost everything."
Every guesthouse, hotel and shop in the village was destroyed when the swirling sea crashed through the streets.
The only guesthouse that was left standing was where Nisha was staying, because it was built on a hill.
Nisha, who owns a Pilates studio on Claughton Street, went on: "I was woken by the hotel manager early on Boxing Day morning who was screaming, 'sea is coming, sea is coming'.
"The sea had come right up to the mount and was a fierce river eating everything and everyone in its tracks.
Sunbeds, trees, cars and debris passed me and two children had scaled a lampost to escape the rising water.
"The sea then went right out, further than any local had ever seen before, and took with it mothers and their children, and entire rooms with people clinging to bed mattresses and bathroom doors.
"Myself and five fellow backpackers took as many belongings as we could and made our way to the temple, which was further up the hill."
The temple became a makeshift hospital and wounded villagers arrived traumatised by what they had seen.
There was no electricity or water and aid could not get through to Marissa because the main road was blocked with debris.
"I stayed one night at the temple and I used my first aid training to help in any way I could. The only way out was to walk 18kms to Matara, which was one of the worst affected places, but I needed to go there to get inland to safety," added Nisha.
It was four days after the tsunami before Nisha managed to contact her family and tell them she was alive.
She said: "They were hysterical but very relieved to hear from me. I couldn't get home until January 6 because it was such chaos and everybody was trying to get out of Sri Lanka."
Six German backpackers who Nisha met before Christmas all died in the tsunami. There are many others, who Nisha has unsuccessfully tried to contact by e-mail, who she believes have perished.
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Weather for St Helens
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 14 C
Wind Speed: 21 mph
Wind direction: South