By John Seigenthaler Anchor, "Weekend Nightly News"
NBC News
updated 1/7/2005 7:57:49 PM ET 2005-01-08T00:57:49

The coast of Sri Lanka, once a tropical paradise, now looks like a war zone. The beaches are deserted. The locals won't even step into the water anymore.

Sumith Wijsen owns a diving shop on a stretch of sand that caters to foreign tourists.

"All is gone," he says. "If you just walk down to the beach, it was many, many restaurants and guesthouses — all destroyed."

The tsunami ripped the wall right off the side of his shop, flattening everything around it. Wijsen fears the tourists won't come back.

It's not just tourism. The fishing industry was affected as well. When the tsunami hit, it knocked huge fishing boats out of the water like they were toys, leaving more than 100,000 fishermen out of work in Sri Lanka alone.

It’s backbreaking work, hour after hour, but at the moment pulling their boat out of the water is the only work fishermen have.

There's another problem. Even if they can get back out to sea, fishermen like R.K. Chandrasoma say that right now, no one will buy their fish.

"A lot of bodies went to the sea, and fish eat the dead bodies," says Chandrasoma. "[So] now people don't want to eat."

Two of Chandrasoma’s four boats sank. The other two are severely damaged. He wonders how he will keep paying his workers and support his large family.

There is a lot of uncertainty, but everyone here knows that if there isn’t help soon to get people back to work, what was once a paradise could be lost for a long time.

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