The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Baby 81 set to regain parents & identity

Colombo, Feb. 14 (Reuters): Sri Lanka's three-month-old 'Baby 81', who was found alive among tsunami debris and became a beacon for bereaved couples, is to recover his parents ' and his name ' after positive DNA tests, court officials said today.

The plight of the infant, so-nicknamed because he was the 81st person taken to Kalmunai hospital on Sri Lanka's east coast after the island's worst natural disaster, caused a media storm after grieving families flocked to offer to care for him.

But his parents, Murugupillai Jeyarajah and his wife Jenita ' who have already waited an agonising two months to regain custody of baby Abilash ' will have to wait another two days for the courts to complete legal formalities.

'The parents have been ordered to come to court on Wednesday, when the baby will be given. They have to wait only two more days,' said M.S.M Nazeer, Kalmunai court registrar.

The court ordered the DNA tests after 31-year-old barber Jeyarajah and his wife argued they could not prove he was theirs because his birth certificate and other documents were washed away by the tsunami along with their house.

The judge, M.P. Moahaidein, announced the DNA results in court in the eastern town of Kalmunai. The Jeyarajahs were not present.

The cherubic infant was put under police guard after Jeyarajah was arrested and briefly detained for trying to forcibly take him from nurses.

When a judge then ordered DNA tests, Jeyarajah nearly fainted and threatened to kill himself. Newspaper reports have said nine women claimed the boy as their son in the aftermath of the tsunami, but police say the Jeyarajahs were the only couple to claim the baby as theirs.

Guarded by three armed policemen and court officials, baby Abilash was carted more than 200 km across Sri Lanka last week to a testing laboratory in downtown Colombo.

Wrapped in a pink blanket and propped on a nurse's lap, the child ' whose survival was hailed a miracle slept through much of the ordeal, blissfully unaware.

'I am so happy, and I only have to thank God for giving my child back,' the boy's father, Murugupillai, said. 'We've got the results for all our hardships.'

The tsunami killed more than 200,000 people around the Indian Ocean, nearly 31,000 of them in Sri Lanka, where children are believed to make up about 40 per cent of the dead.

The tsunami left about 1,000 orphans in the country, according to data quoted by Unicef. The family lost all their belongings to the tsunami and have been living in a camp close to Kalmunai.

Aceh relocation

The first of tens of thousands of tsunami survivors will start moving tomorrow into temporary wooden barracks being erected around devastated Aceh province, officials said.

An initial group of 425 people now living in tents in a football stadium in the provincial capital will travel by bus to their new home, a dusty patch of ground next to a river on the main road to Banda Aceh airport.

More than 400,000 displaced people are scattered around the province in the north of Sumatra island as a result of the tsunami, which left more than a quarter of a million Acehnese dead or listed as missing. 'This is the first stage of the relocations,' Totok Pri, a director at the public works department, said today.

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