Tsunami disaster
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Bangalore-Chennai-Chidambaram-Cuddalore-MGR Thittu

A quick update and a bunch of photos. We drove about 1300 odd kilometres in 3 days, travelling from Bangalore-Chennai-Chidambaram-Cuddalore. And then beyond Cuddalore to a few villages in and around the area. We crossed over to a really beautiful island village called MGR Thittu, literally swept away by the tsunami. The people have all relocated to the shore and are in relief camps. The women still fear the water, but the menfolk want to go back and resume their fishing activities as we found out talking to them.

After spending the whole of Saturday in Cuddalore, we started back for Chennai late evening. Kiruba’s car couldn’t take it anymore and broke down around midnight. His car had to be abandoned since there was no way we would find a mechanic at that time of the night. Kiruba and all his fellow passengers had to halt a bus on the way (somewhere near Pondicherry) to get back to Chennai.

It was an eventful trip. Some photographs taken with a digicam.

(Warning: Photos are from flickr.com so it might take a while to load)


The scenic route: Bangalore to Chennai. This is in the morning, about an hour after we set off and the sun makes an appearance.


AID India in Chennai had suggested we carry games and sports stuff for kids as they love volleyball and cricket in this area.


We join a gang of kids for a game of cricket in Killai village.


After talking to locals, we decided to make it to MGR Thittu, an island about 1/2 km from the shore. A settlement of 100 families and the death toll is about 65, with 5 still missing. We are taken across by a catamaran by two boatmen – Anbazhagan and Arivazhagan. His wife is also travelling with us. they have lost a daughter called Reenu.


A lady who has lost all her belongings tell us how she saved her three children. Her smallest one nearly drowned, but she caught her by her hair and pulled her to safety. She is relatively well off as her belongings outside – TV, grinder, perfumes etc. – suggest. And she refuses to take any money, after treating us all to coconut water.


Cows come and congregate on the beach everyday, swimming about half a kilometre from the shore to the island. Half the cattle folk perished and the ones who survived come back here everyday because they were raised on the island, the village folk tell us. Many of them have lost their owners.


Remains of the day: An upturned chair on the beach.


The gang, surveying the beautiful beach in the island, now scattered with debris.


A family (the lady we met earlier) recovering whatever it could from the debris and carrying it back to the shore in a boat.


Art activities with the kids of MGR Thittu who are all now displaced from their island. They are delighted with the crayons and paper and immediately get to work!


Chitra (extreme right) encourages the kids…


Lunch break at Hotel Pallavi, Chidambaram. On the left, Suman and Nanda reviewing the pictures.


We distributed 4 sets of fishing nets and paraphernelia to a few villagers from Pillamedu – Govindan (the village head), Pandiarajan, Velayudham, Rajagopal and Sanjeev Gandhi. They stay at the relief camp at Killai village near the Killai Police station.


Late evening we come back to Chidambaram. We decide to make a quick visit to the famous Chidambaram temple. Nanda even got us into the inner sanctum of the temple. A view of the beautiful relief work on a rath outside the famous and huge Chidambaram temple.


The Mahabalipuram Shore Temple was not badly affected but the area around it bears proof of the damage done. 80 shops just outside were totally destroyed.


Footprints on the sand of time, Shore Temple.


Relief camps dotting the scenic East Coast Road.


On the East Coast Road, while returning from Mahabalipuram is the Crocodile Bank. This was started in 1976 by herpetologist Romulus Whitaker to protect India’s dwindling crocodile population and to preserve the snake catching. This bank has already produced more than 6,000 crocodiles. And around 5000 of them lolling around in different positions. Quite an experience.


The Rajiv Gandhi memorial at Sriperumbedur, on the Bangalore-Chennai route, built in the spot he was assassinated in 1991.

Nanda’s photo essay
Suman’s detailed report of the trip

We would like to take this ahead and identify how we can continue to help, possibly by trying to concentrate on one village. The prime worry for the fishermen is rehabilitation and getting back their livelihood – starting off with boats and fishing nets – which will allow them to get back to the sea.

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