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'There was no warning at all'
December 26, 2004 22:56 IST
The death toll in Tamil Nadu is 1,800, but it could reach 2,500 by Monday morning, Union Minister for Communication and Information Technology Dayanidhi Maran told rediff.com.
Touring Nagapattinam district, he gave rediff.com an account of the disaster.
Poor people of this area told us that everything happened in just five minutes. Today at around 9 or 9.30am, waves of sea water lashed the coast. Tonight they are homeless and without food.
Members of the fishing community people told us that they are very normally good at assessing bad omens from the sea. There would be unease in the air, unusual movement of clouds, unusual rains but this time there was no warning at all.
In just five minutes, the water level rose very, very high and swept away village after village. The storm came suddenly and they were taken off guard.
There is no help or relief for them. The state machinery is inadequate to cope up with this level of disaster. Relief had not reached to people till evening.
There is more damage in south Tamil Nadu. In a village near Nagapattinam town, there was no electricity. Government officers had disconnected the power supply. A couple was crying because their two children have died. They can't even burn their children because there was no electricity in the crematorium.
Parents had to travel to Chennai with the bodies of their children. It was dark in the area that they could not live in that place with the dead bodies of their children. That was really heart wrenching.
What happened at Marina Beach (in Chennai) was also tragic. Many children who were playing cricket were washed away.
More than 50 tourists died. Anybody who was within 500-800 metres of the beach had to pay with their lives.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has offered all possible help. Helicopters and other facilities have been made available. But in the area where I made an aerial survey, there are no people to be saved. They are dead.
I am now concerned about relief and rehabilitation. I would like to mention that onlookers and curious people are severely hampering relief work.
The Centre will certainly help. The state government should act quickly and send a report to the Centre. But I don't think this government is capable of managing relief or rehabilitation.
(Dayanidhi Maran spoke to Sheela Bhatt)