Tsunami Affected Vailankanni - My Experiences
The Indian coastline experienced the most devastating tsunami on 26th December 2004. The tsunami was triggered by an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 on the Richter scale at 3.4° N, 95.7° E off the coast of Sumatra in the Indonesian Archepelago at 06:29 hrs IST (00:59 hrs GMT).
Tsunami is a very large ocean wave triggered by underwater earthquake and it can strike thousands of kilometres away. These waves have unusually long-wavelength in excess of 100 kms, generated in the open ocean, travelled with the speed of 600 to 800 km/hr and struck the coastal zones.
At that time I was attending a marriage function of my friend. My brother was near the merina beach. Fortunately he escaped from the place. But I lost my friend's family at Vailankanni. Everyday we remember the lost souls at this tragic event. After a week of this tragedy, a team of 9 members under my leadership visited all villages between Karaikkal and Vailankanni to study the damages caused by tsunami. I want to share my experiences and the observations of our team..
Places visited (in geographical order)
Pattinam Cherry: This severely affected place is near Karaikkal. Thanks to Pondicherry Government, NGOs are helping the affected people. Officially 180 people are registered dead or missing. Affected people are housed in an Elementary School. NSS & NCC boys of Hr Sec. School at TR Pattinam are helping the Govt. machinery to bring out the perished bodies. About 100 acres of agricultural lands had turned saline. The crops had turned white. It may take at least three years to make the saline land into cultivable.
Keela Vanjure: 3 houses destroyed. Mostly farmers.
Vadakku Vanjure: As seawater surrounded, 4 houses were damaged. We learned that each family was given Rs. 10,000 and 21 people died. L & T Factory was destroyed because it is lying in the low level.
Keela Pattinamcherry: This fishermen place is adjacent to Nagoor Railway Station. Boats hit Kamban Express Train. More number of vessels (400 kattamarams, 100 boats, 200 vallams) were damaged. Military people are pressed into service for relief work such as removing boats displaced at different places. The kith of 42 dead people each received Rs. 1 lakh from Govt. Corporation workers of different places were brought here to start civil works. My God, we watched the removing of a dead body.
Mother Mary Statues
Relief Camp I (SMY Blue Star Marriage Hall): The affected people from Akkaraipettai are housed here. We interacted with the inmates and distributed biscuits and water packets. We learned that a fresh rumour of Tsunami made them feel disturbed. We listened to their horrible tales. Government made good arrangement to provide meals, medical assistance, etc.,
Review Meeting at TMSSS office: Lack of coordination among service organizations were discussed. We learned that there were some complaints from the places viz Arcot Durai, Kameswaram, kootha karai.
We met Rev. Fr. Sengole, Director, TMSSS and he informed us that after 3 or 4 days, a no. of villages will be allotted to service organizations for adoption.
Relief Camp II (DBG marriage hall, Nagai): We interacted with the inmates mostly children and aged people. During daytime, their parents are at the affected sites waiting for relief. The inmates told their horrible experiences. Ramani, who scored 788/1200 in +2 exams, lost her parents (Sinnaiah & Rajavalli) and her brother is sitting alone. Her house at Akkaraipettai was washed out. There are 2 more orphaned children in this camp. Trichy Hope Worldwide is providing medical help to the people housed there. Mr. Mustafa, Health Inspector, Alathur Municipality (near Perambalur) is in charge of this camp. He told that Govt. is spending Rs. 20,000 everyday for this camp alone. Aids are coming from different places of India and distributed. Toys and Game materials are freely distributed. The children are engaged in learning activities like drawing.
Aryanattu Theru (Nagapattinam Light House): A quarter of the Light House immersed and many people perished in water on the fateful day. More than 100 boats were thrown out of sea and misplaced at random. ONGC workers are taking efforts to repair few boats. We met Thanjavur Collector, Mr. J. Radhakrishnan and discussed the needed relief work. His recommendations are as follows:
- College students may be brought here in one-day trip for exposure.
- Students may convince the public that the Govt. is doing the right job.
- Only after few weeks, the students may join the rehabilitation work.
Also we met Mrs. Bader Sayeed, Chairperson, Tamil Nadu Wakuf Board and Mrs. Nazreen, former Principal, Government Arts College, Ramnad. They thanked our team for the efforts we are taking and advised to bring volunteers to these places.
Keechankuppam: Badly affected. Military Persons are regulating the traffic passing through the single bridge. Para Military people are removing the sand from the affected houses. We could see a number of NGOs providing medical assistance, distributing articles, food stuff, etc., More than 350 fishing boats, each cost from Rs. 1 lakh to 35 lakhs, were displaced, fractured and damaged. Few houses were damaged by a fire accident after the Tsunami tragedy. Military people are moving 20 to 30 fishing boats each day and inspecting for repairing work. When volunteers are digging the soil inside houses, household items like utensils and dead bodies are seen and removed. We met Mr. K.A. Amanullah, Hony. Secretary, TN Leather Tanners Exporters & Importers Association. He told us that they are here to adopt orphaned school going children and build schools there. They are ready to contribute Rs. 10 lakh for our rehabilitation project and if needed, they will use our manpower in their relief work.
Akkaraipettai: Badly affected. Most of fishermen houses were immersed in water and demolished. The only bridge connecting this peninsular area with Kallar village was washed out. Thanks to DRDO (Jodhpur), a mobile NBC (Nuclear Biological Chemical) Water Purification System is pressed in to service to produce pure water from saline water well at the rate of 3000 lt/hr. There are places with thorny bushes yet to be cleared.
Kallar: They lost 101 people including 5 males. They claimed that also another 70 bodies were buried. They lost bikes, utensils, goats, boats, etc., About 104 houses constructed by government were destroyed. Fishermen reported that the depth of the sea and its composition had changed after the Tsunami. Now the schools and marriage halls in Nagai serve as the relief camps. Many recalled the horrible noise they heard at the time of the disaster. Thanks to the TN Govt., temporary relief camp is being setup so that the affected people will be moved from the town before Pongal.
Vadakku Poikai Nallur: This village is unaffected by Tsunami.
Therku Poikai Nallur (Pookara Theru): Thanks to the ‘Thittu‘, this village is unaffected by Tsunami.
Vailankanni: This town is severely affected. All shops on the seashore and small houses in fishermen colony were completely destroyed. Mostly Pilgrims were killed. Some buildings owned by the Church were also affected. Some parts of the compound walls leading to Madha Kulam were destroyed. Affected local people were housed in the Pilgrims’ Quarters. Tamil Nadu Agri-Engineering Department uses earthmovers to remove the debris.
We heard that bodies of 3 children came to the shore on 7th January. Relief materials are not properly distributed. We met Rev. Fr. Rector of Shrine Basilica. He shared his feelings and difficulties faced. They could not recover all bodies of missing pilgrims. He told that more damages have been done to the Vailankanni town. At the same time, through media news of Basilica was flashed all over the world. He promised that in future, Vailankanni town will be renovated and planned so that only spiritual activities will be encouraged.
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