Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Post Tsunami - Phoenix Rising

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Merry Christmas to all of you. It was during such a merry time a couple of years back that the worst of tsunamis struck our coastal regions. Christmas came again the next year, and this year, but the tsunami did not; thankfully. Tsunami thus became a rather common word in our vocabulary, more used now for jokes than anything else. But do we remember the events? Worst, did we forget it all. People who has been affected by this still lives through, although a little more scared than us. Heres something I found in my Dad's laptop which I thought I would publish here.

All photos are taken by my Dad (Dr. G. Mohan). Original write-up is also by him with small edits from myself.

The third anniversary of the 2004 Tsunami is nearing. I had the personal experience of working in one of the worst affected areas in Tamilnadu –near Colachel in the Kanyakumari District where the death toll was around 600. The whole area was devastated by the waves. I almost spend five months in this area of which I was doing relief and rehabilitation work for three months in one of the fishing hamlets near Colachel, a place called Kottilpadu where 213 people died which included 94 children. I was then working as the Chief Medical Officer of Indian Rare Earths Ltd. Manavalkurichy. In September this year I visited the place once again to assess the recovery of these people whose morale was at its lowest when I left on 31st, May 2005.

28th, December 2004. Two days after the Tsunami struck the coastal areas of the Kanyakumari District. The site: one of the relief camps near Colachel. Time around noon. Two men arrive frantically on a motorcycle and just announces two words in Tamil- “Alai Varuthu”(Waves coming). Pandemonium broke out in the camp. There were cries all around. People were running here and there, taking whatever they could, women clutching small babies to their chest and holding the elder ones, trying to escape from the place. Two buses stop in front of the camp. People jump into the buses without knowing where the buses are proceeding to, pleading with the drivers to take them away from this place. In few minutes the camp was virtually empty except the medical relief team which I was heading and few local people and the priest of the church where the camp was set up. It is one of the highest points around Colachel, almost 2 kilometers away from the sea where no waves can ever reach! The same scenes repeated a couple of times in the next three months.

12th, September 2008. Time- around 5 PM. An earthquake with magnitude of 8.4 on the Richter scale struck Indonesia. Warning of a possible Tsunami was given. I travel along the coast of Colachel just to observe how the people reacted to this warning. There was no panic at all. People were moving out of their homes and were seen going to safer places. I reached Kottilpadu at around 7 PM. Most of the people had moved out. Only few remained there. They were not at all perturbed by the warning. A police jeep arrives- no sirens, no announcements. They just advices the youngsters not to take any risk on this particular night and then slowly moves on. It seems that they are careful not to create any panic among the people. I go to the Colachel town. Everything was almost normal except that people were moving in small groups carrying bags for a safe stay in one of their relatives houses or in the churches for the night. I know that these people have overcome the fear of a possible Tsunami.

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