‘Tsunami displayed the resilience of Indians’

December 27th, 2011 - 12:07 am ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Dec 26 (IANS) The way the affected people worked in the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Tamil Nadu’s Nagapattinam coast in 2004 and have recovered since then reflects the resilience of Indians in the face of odds, said an official who served in the area during the catastrophe.

“The people are resilient. The credit for recovering after the massive tsunami should go to the affected people as well as several nameless individuals who worked tirelessly at the tsunami-hit villages,” said J.Radhakrishnan, head of disaster management at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-India Country Office, Monday.

On Dec 26, 2004, the tsunami struck the Tamil Nadu coast, killing thousands and damaging properties.

Nagapattinam district was the worst hit with around 6,100 people losing their lives to the killer wave.

Radhakrishnan, who was the Nagapattinam district collector, was instrumental in leading the reconstruction activity.

Villages of Akkaraipettai in Nagapattinam still fondly recall his grit and determination during those post-tsunami times.

For Radhakrishnan, the tsunami was the second disaster to be managed in the same year. During mid-2004, he handled the worst man-made disaster that struck Tamil Nadu - the fire at a school in Kumbakonam that left 90 children dead.

He said the people of Nagapattinam are now more aware about the importance of alternate vocation and safety from natural disasters.

Looking back on the days immediately after the tsunami struck the Nagapattinam coast, he said: “What kept us going was that even those who had lost their entire family were involved in rescue and recovery efforts.”

“I know of several people whose stories would make you cry even after seven years of the tragedy. There is one Parameswaran who had lost 11 members of his family. But he involved himself in the recovery efforts,” Radhakrishnan recalled.

During those tough times, the need of the hour is to work alongwith others and not mouth empathetic words, he said.

“The survivors were involved in recovering and clearing the bodies. Most of the bodies were recoverd by Dec 31, 2004. However, the last body was recovered Jan 31, 2005,” Radhakrishnan said.

“The real heros are the faceless people like the drivers of excavators who were brought from other districts. The scale of disaster was massive and they had to dig the earth and bury the bodies non-stop for several days,” Radhakrishnan said.

He also recalled a honest family who came to him and returned the compensation amount after their son returned home safely.

The government had paid compensation to the family as the boy was presumed dead.

According to him, there were around 100 children who were orphaned without any extended families to look after them, and an orphanage was set up to take care of these children.

“Even now whenever I go there or speak to them over phone, they will not ask anything for themselves. They will always ask about my welfare and condition,” Radhakrishnan said.

“Whenever I felt down, I used to go to the orphanage. Moving with those children would energise me,” he added.

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