HALCROW PROJECT engineers on Sri Lanka's southern highway were among the first to reach tsunami hit coastal towns south of Colombo.
They played a key role in clearing debris from the main road to allow emergency aid to get through.
Their work was also vital in helping rescuers reach a packed train which was struck by the waves.
Resident ngineers IH Upali and Thlisitha Wijewardena risked their lives to lead two teams from contractor Kumagai Gumi as they cleared 86km of the A2 coast road between Ambalangoda and Matara.
'We started clearing the road the next day (after the tsunami). Power was out and phones were down, ' said Upali.
'At that time we did not know whether the disaster had ended, and if it happened again there would have been nowhere to run.
'But clearing the road was vital. Where the train crashed there were hundreds of bodies. People couldn't get there, ' he said.
Over the two day clear up, dead bodies were a common and gut-wrenching sight, especially in Galle.
'We were lifting a concrete slab that was once part of Galle Central Bus Stand.
Lying beneath it were 27 or 28 bodies, ' said Upali.
'It was hard to count as no sooner had we lifted the slab then people thronged over, trying to identify missing relatives.'