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Life in tsunami-hit Colachel, and a scare

Ganesh Nadar in Colachel | April 05, 2005 00:11 IST

The catamarans are coming home from sea in the white heat of the Tamil Nadu summer. Fishermen jump off the boats as they hit land and scurry to help each other dock their vessels.

These familiar, even idyllic, sights from Colachel are far removed from the tsunami horror that coastal denizens experienced a day after Christmas last year.

Some 600 people died that day in Colachel, in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.

An elderly fisherman says that fishing after tsunami is not good. The catch is less. To keep a mechanised boat at sea for ten days works to an unaffordable Rs 85,000, including the cost of diesel, ice and labour charges.

To make a profit one has to net a catch worth more than Rs 1 lakh; and this is not happening, he says.

School resumes normal functions

St Mary's school, which served as a relief camp three months ago, is back to functioning as a school. Almost normal, that is.

Elsewhere in Tamil Nadu, the HSC exams are over and the SSC exams are on. In Colachel, the exams have been postponed for a month to compensate for the loss of teaching days during the tsunami crisis.

Good news for AIDS patients...

The James Hospital here continues to double as a shelter for tsunami victims; something it started doing after the tsunami struck.

Around 18 people from two families have been living here since December 26.

Their excuse is that the temporary shelter provided by the government is too small for their large families.

And Dr Premkumar continues to feed them.

On April 1, 2005, the hospital got a new wing. The new section will be an exclusive care centre for HIV-positive and AIDS patients.

The new AIDS wing is a collaboration between the Tamil Nadu Aids control society, Chennai, and the hospital.

Medicine, facilities and food is free for patients here. Another interesting feature of the AIDS section is that patients who cannot travel to the hospital would be taken care of in their home.

Kanyakumari Collector Sunil Paliwal inaugurated the new wing.

Speaking on the occasion, the collector recalled the Hindi movie 'Anand'. The main protagonist of the movie is a happy-go-lucky terminally ill patient. He is so ebullient always that his doctor wonders if he is aware of his deadly condition.

More good news. A meeting has been scheduled between NGOs and the administration. The government guidelines for permanent housing for the fishermen has been announced. On May 1, the government hopes to start the final phase of rehabilitation, rebuilding their houses.

Church continues to give hope to victims

Meanwhile, the church at Kottilpadu is a hive of activity. School classes one to three are being held here because the tsunami had destroyed classrooms.

At another end there is a medical camp managed by Indian Rare Earths Ltd.

The doctor is from the firm, while nurses are third year nursing students from James hospital.

D Mohan, the chief medical officer of IRE, says that people here continue to live in fear of tsunamis. He says an entire generation will never outgrow the fear of tsunamis.

On the night of March 28, 2005, when they heard about the Sumatra quake, people instinctively ran from their homes to the old relief camps at the school and the hospital.

James Hospital manager said 15 people had to be treated for injuries sustained while they fled from home; one man had an heart attack.

In the Seva adolescent care centre, the girls look forlorn. Most of them have lost their parents and are now restricted to their room for days on end.

They have nothing to do but brood about the event that took away their parents and brought them here.

Of the 18 girls, one wanted to study to be a nurse, four wanted to become teachers, six wanted to learn computers, one was a qualified teacher and the rest wanted to be tailors.

There were three sewing machines and one typewriter in the centre, but obviously not enough to keep them occupied.

Muttom is a fishing village. Like all coastal villages in Kanyakumari, Muttom too suffered a lot when the tsunami came.

Alan Cole, John Cooper and Ian Hunneybell, all of them from the UK, are helping in reconstruction efforts in Muttom.

They are working as masons. They came to Muttom through Teaching Abroad, an organisation based in Sussex.

Teaching Abroad has been working in India since 1994. Alan's wife Lesley is a qualified nurse. She takes classes at the James Hospital Nursing College.

Old stories and a new one at the collectorate

The collectorate is full of officers waiting to meet the collector. The tsunami relief office is the busiest room here.

Here one comes across an interesting bit of information. The Indian Air Force had arranged for Microlight rides for tsunami orphans a fortnight back.

The IAF pilot Squadron Leader Rahul Monga caused quite a bit of heartburn for the district authorities.

First he refused to consider the armed police ground in Nagercoil as the landing site though it was perfectly suited for the occasion. He insisted on Kanyakumari.

There too he insisted on changing the landing strip twice.

Then, after two flights said that it was too windy.

Next day, the kids went to Thiruvananthapuram, in Kerala, for their rides.

The bus ride to Thiruvananthapuram cost the collectorate only Rs 2000, catering to the whims of the pilot cost them Rs 31,000.

What angered the administration even more was that the pilot kept reminding the officials that he had to be in Delhi the next day.

 




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