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'Now there's a bigger flood of aid'

A Ganesh Nadar | January 10, 2005 19:55 IST
Last Updated: January 16, 2005 19:15 IST

From Nagapattinam it is a short distance to Nagore, home to the famous dargah of Meeran Sahib Abdul Qadir Shahul Hamid Badshah. Both Nagore and Velankanni are major pilgrim centres with crowds the year round, so it is possible the exact number of dead and missing will never be known from there as well.

Beyond the tragedy, there is relief work going on here. Mata Amritanandamayi's followers have set up shop in a local marriage hall, where they look after those rendered homeless. Government aid is also being distributed here and in other places in Nagore; the money has reached, now the survivors are waiting for other relief material to arrive.

An activist tells us the amount of private aid that is coming in is enormous. "First there was a flood of water, now there is a bigger flood of aid."

But there are complaints too. A woman is complaining that nothing is being done about the state of her house, eliciting the response that the village administrative officer is evaluating the damage and it would take time. There are others like her, too.

From Nagore the National Highway 45A takes you via another state -- Pondicherry -- back to Tamil Nadu. Now you reach Tranquebar, known as Tarangabadi in Tamil, previously a Dutch stronghold.

The 16th century Dutch fort, remarkably, has withstood the tsunami. Further up on the shore is Masilamaninathar temple, dating back to the 14th century. Before the tsunami, the ravages of time had chipped away at it; now it is in a further state of disrepair, thanks to the plundering waves.

The way to the village is lined with clothes piled up on the road, received as aid but which the fishermen refused to accept since they were all used clothes. The village has seen a lot of damage, and a block development officer is overseeing relief work. More than 300 people were killed in the tragedy in this town, and 600 homes were destroyed. The survivors are being fed at three spots. You find women sitting before roofless homes, now reduced to shells from the past. They weep as you talk to them, the wounds are still fresh.

The church here has recorded all the damage and forwarded it to the government for action. The deputy inspector general of Thanjavur, Ramesh Kudawala's instructions to his men -- do not disclose your identity, but do whatever is needed by the people to get them back on their feet.

Further north from Tranquebar is Poompuhar, the cradle of Tamil civilization. A  flourishing seaport in ancient times whose prosperity is immortalised in epics, it has been reclaimed by the sea. Today there are arches all over town, commemorating the characters from the epics such as Kannagi, Kovalan and Madhavi, dramatis personae in the glorious Silappadikaram or the Tale of the Anklet.

To mark a more recent event are huge tents that house the homeless. This town lost 118 people to the tsunami waves. Some 1800 families are receiving aid. C Karuppasamy, state minister for Adi Dravidar and tribal welfare, is distributing aid. The man in charge of relief work is the deputy secretary of transport, Pankaj Kumar Bhansal.

The sun is setting as we speed on to Cuddalore, among the worst hit in the tragedy. There is a general bandh in Cuddalore to mourn the dead.

(A Ganesh Nadar has been travelling northwards from Kanyakumari to Cuddalore in the tsunami-hit areas of the Tamil Nadu coast)

Tsunami strikes: the complete coverage

Tsunami Strikes: The Complete Coverage

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