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Local Ties to Tsunami

By Rachelle Bowden in News on Dec 28, 2004 3:46PM

MapThe tsunamis that swept across the Indian Ocean from Thailand to Somalia and killed more than 44,000 people so far may seem like a world away, but they are affecting people around the Chicagoland area in many ways. A couple of stories we've read with local ties -

Dipak Jain, the dean of Northwestern's business school, has been in Thailand since December 15 to teach at a school in Bangkok. Jain, his wife, and his 3 kids were heading back to the hotel after a fun day at the beach with friends on the island of Phuket when they saw the tidal wave. The family was less than 100 yards from the wave, but Jain said they weren't in danger because much of the water went into a lagoon. Lucky for them, no one was hurt and the family was able to fly back to Bangkok.

Nate Berkus - Photo: elledecor.comNate Berkus, a celebrity Chicago interior designer and frequent guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, was at a resort in Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit. Berkus said he and a friend were swept out to sea while they were sleeping. They held on to a telephone pole but were ripped away from it when a second wave hit. Berkus was able to climb onto a roof of a house but his friend is still missing.

Pastor Eardley Mendis of Purna Jiwan Mission, a South Asian Lutheran Congregation in Norwood Park on the Far Northwest Side, received a call yesterday telling him that the body of his wife, Tamara Mendis, had been recovered in Sri Lanka. Tamara and their daughter, Eranthie, had been travelling by train when a 30-foot wave crashed down. Passengers were submerged for several minutes and Eranthie tried to pull her mother to safety, but people were yelling for her to let go because another wave was coming. She was not able to save her mom.

Abel family. Photo - APRelatives in Evanston are eagerly awaiting any word of Ben Abels, a 33-year-old real estate broker, who disappeared after the tsunami washed over the resort where he was staying on the Thai island of Phi Phi. The friend Abel was vacationing with lost a hand and got her legs crushed, but she is in a hospital and alive. She hasn't seen Abel since the tsunami hit and there is still no word at all on his whereabouts.

This is just a sampling of how area people have been affected by the tsunami. We're sure that there are many more and our thoughts and prayers go out to all of them. If you would like to get involved locally, many missions, temples and churches are raising money to send to those affected. The Trib has a list of agencies that are accepting contributions for assistance for those affected by the earthquake and tidal waves in Asia. Something quick and easy that you can do RIGHT NOW is make an online donation to the Red Cross.

Wikipedia has the most in-depth coverage of the earthquake and tsunamis that we've seen and it's being updated as more information is available.

Map via Wikipedia
Photo of Nate Berkus via
Photo of the Abel family via AP