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Monday, September 1, 2014

Indian Ocean Tsunami 2004 - SYMA at Nagapattinam

In a series of articles, I have posted on the tragedy that befell on that black Sunday 26th Dec 2004 – devastation and loss of life caused by .  ‘tsunami’ (from Japanese – a harbour wave) - the deadliest natural disasters in human history  killing at least 290,000  in 14 countries bordering the Indian Ocean. Having seen such a colossal sorrow at close, we had the burning urge to do something more, at Chennai, then at Cuddalore…. Here is something on SYMA relief activity at Nagai.

In a short time after the ghastly event, the dispossessed  were already looking at the possibility of resuming lives, thanks to the kind hearted souls of this wonderful motherland and due to the  concerted relief operations of the Govt. the stock taking of the loss is still not complete. However, despite the encouraging statistics, the fear of the people inhabiting the coastal hamlets was hard to miss – and we at SYMA felt it our responsibility to the society in doing something to allay the hardships.

In our previous visit we had entrusted some relief material at Tirunagari. The material that we had handed over at Thirunagari was distributed to the affected people of Mealmoovarkarai, Madathukuppam and Naickerkuppam near Sirkazhi.  It was the  efforts of  Sri Embar T. Srinivasan who deserved appreciation from us. Continuing with our relief support, we  distributed rice packets (5 kg each) to 27 persons belonging to Ayodhya Kuppam in Chennai. We also distributed 50 mattresses / bed sheets to the affected people of Srinivasapuram in Foreshore estate. 2000 note books / 1500 pens / 250 slates / 180 Geometry boxes were distributed to school children of Tiruvengadu, Naangur, Poompuhar and nearby. This was also coordinated by Embar T. Srinivasan.

At that time, the coastal line lay battered by nature’s fury and the hamlets lying close bore the brunt. It was similar pathetic story of lost life, property and shattered peace every where. Agricultural lands had been damaged; people lost not only their savings but more preciously their  livelihood. The villages were slowly limping back towards normality and more than a month after the occurence also affected people were still living in temporary sheds in torrid conditions.  Nagapattinam  had taken the worst battering with heavy loss of life, the relief operations were hampered by washed-out roads, damage to connecting bridge etc.,

This time as we prepared ourselves for the relief operations at Nagapattinam and around it was Shri A Kuppuswamy, Dy. Commissioner who deserved appreciation for allocating his living place to our association – turning a la virtual camp for more than a week. Before embarking on Nagapattinam visit, all the procured material was stored, and the packing operations were on here. On the day of visit Dr. Padmavathi, Psychiatrist, visited us for a counseling session to all our volunteers. This provided a rare insight to the gory story and a human side, which we were not aware of. Dr. Padmavathi  emphasized that those visiting should not get carried away by the melancholy. What those affected really needed, besides relief materials was soothing words and a feeling that there is somebody caring for. She advised that the visits should not be whirlwind stopover at places distributing material, instead, we should select and go to one or two places, reach out to those affected, talk to them and stay with them for a while. Patient hearing to their heartrending stories itself will placate them in a great manner. To some extent, we were able to adhere to this.

The SYMA  team started in the night of 14.1.2005 in a convoy of two cars, one van and two lorries. The material had been carefully packed and placed in the lorry by the volunteers who had endeavoured for nearly week. Our Volunteers definitely deserve generous appreciation for the manner in which they dedicated themselves  to the cause uncaring for the self and keeping away from the family too.  Just as the trip to Cuddalore was enabled by Mangal Tirth Bala, we were aided and accompanied in this trip by “The Confederation of All India Stenographers Association – Postal Employees Union (thanks to our own R Kannan); Sri Madhwa Siddantha Onnahini (SMSO) providing  100 blankets. Many well wishers had provided rice in bags. We carried with us 400 sets, each consisting of Stove, blanket, Lungi, utensil sets, mattress, 5 kgs of rice and small packets of hairoil, toothpaste, soap and detergent.

At Nagapattinam, Mr P Gangadharan was a perfect host; he had already identified the places, accompanied us and helped in coordinating distribution of relief material to the agricultural families affected. We are thankful to Mr.Gangadharan and his family members for providing accommodation and food to our 25 volunteers. We met the District Collector Mr. J. Radhakrishnan who has been doing a great job in organising relief for those affected. He is a real hero, fearless, effective, humane and extremely dedicated. He continues to inspire us and on a later day was our Chief Guest in a SYMA function too. 

We reached out to the villages of Naaluvedapatti and Vellapallam where the sea water had  played havoc to the lives and properties. These tiny hamlets are around 30 kms away from Nagapattinam and for the nearbest bus stop, the inhabitants will have to walk nearly 3.5 km. The most affected area in Naaluvedapatti being Ulaganathan theru and Gounder theru while at Vellapallam, vivasaya theru and meenavar colony were very badly affected.

We must make a mention of the hospitality shown by the affected people even in the time of distress. They insisted and provided tender coconuts to all of us and took us around to the affected places. We started distributing the materials with small prayer invoking the blessings of Lord Parthasarathy. We returned with a heavy heart on seeing the difficulties of the people, praying that such a calamity should never fall again in our land. We had a some  sense of satisfaction in playing a small role as a social service organisation.

~ and we had another small part after villages limped back to normal – this time at Poompuhar – which will appear in a separate post.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

Secretary, SYMA.

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