The (grim) tale of two buses and their repercussion on tourism

By P.C. Blom
[A Tourist in Sri Lanka]

Good Friday…. well unfortunately it was not ‘very good’, especially for two unfortunate families in Dodanduwa, just south of Hikkaduwa. While most were either half asleep or in full festive mood, this poor family’s shop and house was destroyed by a bus whilst another’s child was crushed to death.

I passed the accident scene while driving northwards from Galle and was horrified to see a red bus embedded in the small house that I had passed not two hours earlier.

The police were present. However I noted that there were no police lights or warning signs of any sort to indicate to approaching traffic that an accident had taken place.

Strangely enough, when I drove to Galle earlier in the evening there was a truck broken down at the exact spot and I saw the driver trying to fix it. My reaction when I returned to the scene was that the bus must have hit the truck but as I slowed down I saw that the truck was not involved, but my premonition persisted.

Imagine my horror when reading the Sunday paper to discover that a second bus had ploughed into the back of the first and killed a poor child that was about to be rescued from the initial debris.

Yes I am a tourist in Sri Lanka, and I, as well as other foreigners often compare the traffic here to what we know in Europe and swap terror stories of our experiences here that often involve very close calls on the roads. I find it hard to forgive the people involved in this particular tragedy as it could have been easily avoided.

The Police who attended to this accident did not set up any lights or warnings signs to alert the oncoming traffic of the incident. Yes, the bus driver should have been driving slower, but the educated Police officers should know and understand their role in an accident situation and act accordingly.

The Police is failing to discharge their duty. There is a speed limit in Hikkaduwa town, as in any town and village in Europe and in Sri Lanka, but it is too dangerous to even walk on the streets. I would like to see the Ministers of Tourism and Transport trying to make their way around these streets without their entourage of waving white-gloved security, embedded in hooting Land Rovers preceded by blacked out, speeding 4×4’s.

For a country trying to build up tourism, no effort is being taken to make the streets safe for pedestrians so much so that in one of the few towns in the country where you find regular tourists, they chose not to walk the streets. Buses instead thunder by at reckless speed, spewing out black smoke.

Unless the authorities take appropriate action there will be no end to these tragedies. Putting a few policemen here and there with speed cameras will not be effective unless they apply the same rules on the buses.

I enquired from some locals in the area who claimed there were some connections between the police and the bus owners resulting in them not being stopped. I hope this is not the case. There needs to be a clamp down on every bus that fails to observe the speed limit.

On the upside, this might bring some revenue that could be used to improve the safety of pedestrians, clean the streets and rebuild the pavements. I was told that there had been speed bumps previously in Hikkaduwa, but I guess they were slowing down the buses too much.

The current state of roads and traffic in Sri Lanka is shameful! All fellow tourists I have met complain so much about the traffic here that it shadows the overall experience of this otherwise beautiful country.

Sort out your roads and your traffic Ministers or more people will haplessly meet their end!

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