CUDDALORE: Beneath the shining but deserted sandy stretch remains the concealed pain and anguish of a community that lost their dear ones in the 2004 tsunami. Pillumedu hamlet nestled between the backwaters and the seafront in Killai panchayat in the backward coastal district no longer exists. Those who survived the killer waves have been relocated to a new place christened ‘Pillumedu’ again.
Haunted by the loss even now, everyone has a tale to tell since Killai alone lost 35 people. For example, Nagaraj (45) and Selvam (35) lost their three children: Vairamuthu (6), Vaithini (4) and Silambazhagi (3). They, later, went for re-canalisation but with no success. The names of the three children have been engraved on the walls of their government-built house in their new settlement, near the Pichavaram boat house.
Recalling the tragedy, Sathyamurthy (50), village chief of Killai, says, “Pillumedu was an island-like village with sea on the one side and the river on the other. Around 15 families from Killai had built small huts and lived there as it was convenient to go fishing. A few families from our village were settled temporarily at nearby Kodiyampalayam village in Nagapattinam district and were engaged in fishing.”
On that fateful day, Pillumedu was totally devastated. All the huts and trees on the island were washed away by the giant waves. Now, there is no human habitation on the islet.
Similarly, families at Kodiyampalayam were badly affected. That was where Nagaraj and Selvam were living. Their children were being brought up by their paternal grandmother at Killai. A day before the tsunami, the children joined their parents at Kodiyampalayam following school vacation.
“On December 26, 2004, I had gone out to sell fish. Only my wife and children were at home. Tsunami took all my children away,” recalls Nagaraj, his eyes swelling up with tears. “My wife Selvam had undergone tubectomy, so we went for recanalisation. Though we spent over `3 lakh from the tsunami compensation we got, she couldn’t conceive,” he says with great regret. “We then adopted two of our relative’s children, Kiruba and Sinthana. We are raising them as our own,” he informs.
A similar tragedy left 50-year-old Selvam mentally disturbed. His wife Selvakumari (45) is also distraught. They lost their four children in the tsunami. Now, Selvam barely mutters a few words. “My son has almost stopped speaking. Occasionally, he utters one or two words. He is mentally disturbed because of the loss of children. He does not even go fishing now,” bemoans his aged mother Santha.