Trincomalee (trĭngˌkəməlēˈ) [key], town (1995 est. pop. 50,000), capital of Eastern prov., NE Sri Lanka, on the Bay of Bengal. Trincomalee has one of the world's finest natural harbors and can accommodate the largest vessels. Since the 1960s congestion and labor problems at the port of Colombo have forced the use of Trincomalee's port, little used commercially in previous years, for modest export trade. Tea is the chief export; hides and dried fish are also shipped. Trincomalee is a railroad terminus and an important road junction and is noted for its rice and coconut plantations. There is some pearl fishing. The Hindu Temple of a Thousand Columns, built by early Tamil settlers from S India, was destroyed (1622) by the Portuguese; on its site is Fort Frederick, built (1676) by the Dutch. Because control of Trincomalee was a key to domination over the Coromandel Coast of India, Britain and France sought (18th cent.) to wrest the city from the Dutch; it was captured (1795) by the British. During World War II, Trincomalee was the British naval headquarters in the Pacific theater and had an airfield from which U.S. planes operated against the Japanese in Myanmar and Malaya. A British naval base remained at Trincomalee until 1957, when Sri Lanka abrogated its defense agreement with Britain and took over the base. The area around the town was devastated by the Dec., 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami.
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