The Ghost of Tsunami Still Haunts

A decade after the killer waves engulfed lives, leaving behind very little to rebuild, rehabilitation efforts are yet to reach many in Srinivasapuram in Pattinapakkam that was the worst-affected area in Chennai

Published: 27th December 2014 06:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th December 2014 06:05 AM   |  A+A-


CHENNAI: When the destructive wave paid a visit to Chennai a decade ago on December 26, Srinivasapuram in Pattinapakkam was the worst affected. Over 50 people lost lives in the tsunami, the highest toll recorded in the coastal parts of the city on that day.

Even after a decade, the families from there are yet to put the tragedy behind them. Making it worse, the rehabilitation efforts haven’t reached them all, and those who managed to obtain assistance, allege that the initiatives have been shoddy.

“About 56 people were killed in tsunami from the area, which was the highest toll on the coasts of Chennai. But all affected families are yet to be given shelters,” said R Geetha, adviser to Unorganised  Workers’ Federation. According to her, the rehabilitation shelters in Kannagi Nagar and Chemmencherry lack basic facilities. The absence of enough schools to accommodate the children from the families translocated there will have an adverse impact on their future, she said. “That is why we are demanding the authorities to provide homes for these families in Srinivasapuram,” Geeta added.

According to S Thenpandian, deputy director of the non-governmental organisation Centre for Child Rights and Development, the way out was the enactment of Rajiv Awas Yojana. The Bill guarantees pattas to the houses for slum dwellers. Now none of the slum dwellers are given land pattas,” he added.

However, there are some like S Kannakavalli, who lost her house to the fateful tsunami, but later managed to move on with the help of the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF). “We had lost everything, house, livelihood, everything,” said Kannakavalli from Sadras Kuppam. “Our future was in dark till Swaminathan sir came along and helped us become economically stable again,” she said.

On the 10th anniversary of the disaster on Friday, the MSSRF released a chronicle of initiatives they took to ease the lives of victims.

“‘Beyond Tsunami — Activities undertaken at MSSRF’ is a chronicle of initiatives taken by us to combat the misery tsunami left behind,” said Nancy Anabel from MSSRF.

“We have set up 24x7 multilingual helplines in Puducherry, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Kerala and Odisha to offer timely assistance and warnings on any natural calamity. The helpline has alerted people on Phailin and Thane in Puducherry and Tamil Nadu,” said Nancy. MSSRF has helped establish women’s self help groups, poultry research centres, skill-building initiatives,  fisher friend mobile applications, marine-based alternative conservation and sustainable fisheries management. “The overall damage came to almost $574 million. Our main focus was to revive their economic stability. We introduced an agro-based action plan. Among the eight affected districts, two had high damage. The Nagapattinam rice fields and Cuddalore horticultural lands were damaged to a great extent.  It took a lot of time to revive the lands. But I think we need a multi-stakeholder approach to understand the problem and participate in farm development,” said Dr Rengalakshmi. R Thandavan, Vice-Chancellor of Madras University, spoke about the need for a rehabilitation centre at MSSRF. “Keeping in mind the activities MSSRF carries out, I think there is a need for establishing a trauma centre where victims of such natural calamities will be rehabilitated,” he said.

“Preparedness and proper management of resources are the need of the hour to combat the aftermath of such disasters, or else everything would become difficult,” said S Balaji, PCCF (Research and Education) Government of Tamil Nadu. Noted agriculture scientist and founder of MSSRF, M S Swaminathan said calamities like tsunami had to be dealt with by a host of people. “Around 9,000 lives were lost in TN alone. I think it’s the responsibility of every stakeholder to come forward and help prepare combat such unexpected calamities,” he said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people, including relatives of victims, those from the fishing communities on the coast of Chennai and others paid homage to those who lost their lives in the disaster, and held a candle light vigil in their memory.

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