M A I N   N E W S

Tsunami devours 9,000 in south coast
Five village islands wiped out
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, December 27
As the rescue operations continued, the death toll due to Sunday’s tidal waves touched around 9,000 in Tamil Nadu, the Union Territory of Pondicherry and the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

The worst affected in south India is Tamil Nadu where more than 2,800 have reportedly died, while 400 died in Pondicherrry and Karaikal.

The situation turned out to be horrifying in the Andaman and Nicobar islands where the death toll touched 5000 with five village islands completely wiped out. In Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, many more are still missing and presumed to be dead.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today postponed his visit to tidal wave-affected states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry from tomorrow, a PMO spokesman said in New Delhi.

He said the two-day visit had been postponed as it might disturb the relief works.

Panic broke out today among residents of the 13 coastal districts of Tamil Nadu following the forecast by the weather office in Thiruvananthapuram that fresh Tsunamis might develop and hit the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

The fact that strong aftershocks hit the Andaman and Nicobar islands early this morning, one measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale and another tremor of 5.1 magnitude, made people leave their homes near the sea and rush for safety.

The Union Home Minister, Mr Shivraj Patil, who arrived here this morning and had discussions with the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Ms J. Jayalalithaa, assured all help to the state.

He went on an aerial survey of the Tsunami-affected areas in south India.

Mr Patil said: “The casualties are very high in Andaman and Nicobar.” The death toll in Andaman and Nicobar has crossed 3000 and an IAF station has been washed away while 65 bodies of Indian Army soldiers were recovered and 32 IAF personnel are missing.

Communication with the islands remained cut off and the Andaman and Nicobar Inspector General of Police, Mr S.B. Deol, told newsmen: “The death toll so far is 3000 but it is likely to go up.”

The islands of Car Nicobar and Nancowrie are the worst hit and rescue teams are yet to reach there. The situation is extremely grim and the death toll figure was reached on the basis of bodies recovered and those missing for more than 24 hours.

Being a Christmas holiday: a large number of tourists had reached the Andaman and Nicobar islands and around 2000 of them were stranded there.

Indian Airlines today operated special flights and flew back 354 tourists to Kolkata. But because of cracks on the Port Blair runway, the IA could not operate large aircraft.

The worst-hit district in Tamil Nadu is Nagapattinam, 250 km south of here, where more than 2000 dead bodies have been recovered and 5000 more are still missing.

With the apprehension of an outbreak of epidemic, the district administration carried out mass burial and cremations. A majority of the victims here were women and children as is the case all over Tamil Nadu. A majority of the victims being from the fishermen community, men-folk were either awake or had gone out fishing in the sea. Women and children were sleeping when the Tsunami hit with full force and swept them away as it destroyed their homes on the sea shore.

Rescue work was seriously affected due to lashing rain and relief could not reach the affected people. To add to their tragedy deserted homes of the people who had fled for safer places in panic and those belonging to the victims in Nagapattinam were looted.

The District Collector, Mr Veera Shanmuga Moni, said relief operations were in full swing with fire brigade, police and revenue teams visiting the affected areas. The district officials were also taking preventive measures against any spread of epidemics.

He said over 20,000 persons had been evacuated to safer places and provided with food and drinking water.

The death toll in Cuddalore district reached 400 while in the southern-most tip of India in Kanyakumari district, more than 524 persons have died.

In the state capital here, 200 bodies have been recovered so far but around 500 persons still missing are being feared dead.

A majority of them are fishermen who went out to the sea early morning before the killer Tsunami struck.

The city administration is facing problems in carrying out relief operations because of curious onlookers who too were asking for food packets. The Chennai Municipal Corporation has opened 18 relief centres in the city and has organised medical camps and first aid centres.

The situation in the Union Territory of Pondicherry and Karaikal, 108 km from here, remained grim as the death toll rose to 250 while 150 persons remained untraced.

Among the victims of Sunday’s Tsunami is a nuclear scientist, Dr A. Selvaraj, attached to the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) at Kalpakkam, 80 kms from here. His body has been identified and the death toll in Kalpakkam was 60 with many more missing.

The catastrophe has jeopardised the lives of millions of people in the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu and those who lost their children and many who lost their entire family lost their mental balance.

A majority of the victims are poor and are unable to grapple with the tragedy, which look them unawares.

In neighbouring Kerala, the death toll reached 145 with 97 of the victims belonging to a small town of Kollam on the sea shore.

PTI adds
HYDERABAD: The death toll in the tsunami disaster in Andhra Pradesh rose to 77 on Monday while 212 persons were still missing even as the state government grappled with the mammoth relief and rescue operations in nine coastal districts.

Though officials here put the death toll at 77, reports quoting district authorities said 104 persons had died as massive tidal waves, wreaked havoc in the coastal region, rendering thousands of families homeless.

Prakasam district bore the brunt, accounting for 27 deaths followed by Krishna (26), Nellore (10), West Godavari (8), East Godavari (4) and Guntur (2), state Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy told reporters before leaving for an aerial survey of the affected districts. He said over 35,000 families had been evacuated from vulnerable low-lying areas in coastal districts and lodged in relief camps.

The relief measures were on in full swing and each affected family was being provided with 25 kgs of rice, the Chief Minister said. The government had already announced Rs 1 lakh ex-gratia to each bereaved family.

Reports quoting district officials put the death toll at 104 with Prakasam district accounting for 32 deaths, Krishna (26), Nellore (21), Guntur (13), West Godavari (8) and East Godavari (4).

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