Saturday, December 17, 2005


From DailyRecord


DAY TWO LAST BOXING Day the world watched in horror as a monster wave crashed into the coast lines of South East Asia killing over 220,000 people. A year on Daily Record writer Brian McIver returned to some of the worst affected areas with Scottish charity SCIAF. Yesterday he told you how the survivors of a small fishing village, many of whom have lost family members and friends to the Tsunami, have rebuilt their lives

By Brian Mciver In India

AMID the shards of broken boats and crooked branches on the beaches of Cuddalore, sits a small shack house which has been cut in half and now lies open to the mercy of the sea.

Young fisherman Kalaimaran stands outside the shack gathering wood for repairs, and points to the leaves of a coconut tree standing a good 30 feet high next to what remains of his family home.

"The wavewas taller than that tree," he says. Nearby, a tired and sad looking man called Garandhar and his friend Neelam are standing ontwowooden slats they are shoving out to sea, an elderly woman further down the road is carrying large bowls of cementup a ladder while a young girl is fretting around a shiny piece of sari cloth.

This is how life is moving on for the survivors of the Boxing Day tsunami which devastated parts of Asia last year - the people here work hard so they don't have time to stop and dwell on what, and who, they have lost.

In the area of Cuddalore in south-east India, hundreds of farming and fishing community families saw relatives disappear when the water washed over the beach, smashing homes and destroying fields and fishing nets.

More than 600 people in this small community died on December 26 last year as the knock-on effect from the Sumatran earthquake displaced 10,000 square kilometres of sea bed and created the deadliest tidal wave in living memory.

It washed over every coastline on the Indian Ocean perimeter with tremendous speed - killing thousands of people in Indonesia,Thailand, Sri Lanka and India.

And as the first anniversary of the terrible tragedy approaches, the Daily Record joined Scots overseas aid agency SCIAF to visit the worst affected areas in India, where a total of 8010 people were killed on the mainland.

The parts of India worst affected were in the regions of Kerela, Andra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, where areas like Cuddalore saw entire ways of life and generations of families washed away.

And that is never more evident than on the beach town of Devanampattinam when you look at the home of 27-year-old fisherman Kalaimaran.

He was working when the tsunami hit. Luckily, he managed to escape, but saw the impact of the wave when it hit the beach and saw his house destroyed, killing his mother Lakshmi.

He said: "I saw everyone running away when the wave hit.

"Now, this is all that is left of my house but my mother was inside it when the tsunami came. I never saw her again.

"I have been living in what is left of the house because I have nowhere else to go.

"I hope to get a new house because I cannot sleep living this close to the sea any more."

Kalaimaran is just one of the people hoping to benefit from a new housing project he helped build which is to be opened by Boxing Day this year.

Here, local people mix with labourers, and men and women work together to try to rebuild their town.

Just along the road from Kalaimaran's home, fishermen Garandhar and Neelam are launching their catamaran fishing boat, which is basically two large logs of wood stuck together, which they sail out to sea to throw their nets and hope for a catch.

Since the tsunami, they have been spending more and more time on the water because they say the fish stock has dwindled following the disaster.

But it's not the fishing problems that bothers these men.Neelam lost his sister, while Garandhar can't even offer prayers for the name of his lost relative. He said: "My wife was holding our one month old granddaughter when the tsunami hit land.

"The wave washed the baby away out to sea.We had not even given her a name yet.

"Nothing has been the same since that day. We are all terrified of the sea now."

Although there could be no community on earth which could cope with a 30 foot wall of fast moving water, the parts of India which have been affected were already among the poorest and most vulnerable areas in the region.

The heat is almost unbearable in this part of the world, and stray dogs and goats roam through the small mud dried streets and lanes of the smallest towns.

Every building or home here shows the scars of the tsunami, as do the people of the coastlines who are all still mourning their lost friends and relatives.

Families live in small wooden houses and survive by fishing and selling their catch at market, or by farming the land and growing vegetables and herbs.

Any spare money goes towards educating the children and there are very rarely any insurance policies, contingency plans or pots of rupees in case of an emergency.

So when the wave destroyed homes and people's way of life, people were left homeless with nothing but whatever they could grab at a second's notice and no means of making any kind of living.

But farmer Salthyvani, 48, is now back working on her farm after some charitable intervention, and she said she is very grateful to Scots for their help and donations.

She said: "We had nothing left after the tsunami, but we received a lot of help from around the world andwe are all very grateful to the people of Scotland for helping us when we needed it most.

"I was on my farm when the tsunami came, it was higher than the trees in the fields, and I broke my leg trying to run away with my children.

"Our fields were destroyed because the salt water killed the crops, but with help, we are now fertilising the land again and have crops of jasmine and onions to sell at market."

Local farm girl Suleka was one of the lucky children who had left the town to get an education in the nearest city Chennai, and was studying for her final exams last December when she got news of her family.

The wave had washed inland to her family farm and killed her grandfather Kathguarayon while her father Ramonatha was also caught in the wave. He was impaled on an onrushing branch and was hospitalised for weeks.

The family's tragedy, along with their salinated crops, meant the 18-year-old girl had to return home.

Although she later sat - and passed - her exams, she had to give up her place in further education to look after her family.

And Suleka is one of the people who has benefited directly from some of the millions of pounds raised by Scots to help with the relief and recovery effort.

Scottish aid agency SCIAF directed £2.2m of funds to the tsunami hit countries, and their sister network Caritas India used some of that to open up training and counselling centres in this area.

Suleka is one of the success stories of the rehabilitation programme. She was traumatised by what happened to her family, but she enrolled in local textile classes to learn tailoring and is now hoping to start her own business.

Suleka said: "The tsunami was one of the worst things you could ever imagine happening to your family.

"I lost my grandfather and thought my own father would die too.

"I found it very hard to cope with what had happened, but I now join the other women of the village for textile classes.

"Everyone here lost someone in the tsunami so we talk to each other about it, and share our stories. It has been like therapy for all of us, and it has really helped me to come to terms with what happened.

"And I am now learning to be a tailor so I can support my family and start my own business.

"My family tried to get me into an arranged marriage to help, but I want to do this myself."

#To help support the work of SCIAF, you can find out more or donate by calling 0141 354 5555 or visiting

Courtesy:DailyRecord UK

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