M A I N   N E W S

Fear of tsunami gave them a sleepless night
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, August 11
People of the coastal Tamil Nadu, including the capital Chennai, spent a sleepless Monday night, following slight tremors and a tsunami alert, which triggered memories of December 26, 2004. People who fled from their homes and spent the night in open places amid the late night showers, started returning to their houses only after the tsunami alert was withdrawn early morning today.

The aftershocks of the midnight earthquake near Andaman and Nicobar islands was clearly felt in coastal Tamil Nadu where slight tremors for a few seconds drove people out of their homes. The tremors were felt more in apartments with the walls and floors moving slightly for a few seconds and things in shelves and tables falling down.

Some of the people said wall clocks and vessels in the kitchen fell down on the floor and they felt as if their heads were whirling. While a few thought that they were imagining things as they were sleepy, most of them immediately recognised that they were experiencing slight tremors like the one in December 2004. Children said their beds were shaking lightly and some of them said their bodies were shivering last night.

People who gathered in the streets did not go back to their houses fearing that the buildings might collapse if a more powerful earthquake occurred. Even when people were speaking to each other about the tremors and the tsunami that ravaged Tamil Nadu coast in 2004, police rushed to the coastal areas with a tsunami alert, causing further panic.

While the policemen announced through loudspeakers that a tsunami alert had been issued, people gathered their precious and essential belongings and ran towards safer areas. Some of the women said they did not even think of money, jewels and valuables and moving their children to safety was the only thing in their mind when the tsunami alert was given.

Most of them said their fears were based on the previous experience when a powerful tsunami followed a slight tremor like the one witnessed last night. Even before the police alerted them, they had apprehensions of a huge natural disaster, some of them said.

Policemen who had left the stations after completing their day duty were urgently summoned back and sent to coastal areas to evacuate people to safer places. A large number of policemen were deployed at places which were affected severely during the 2004 tsunami.

On a night when swine flu scare was swept away by tsunami fears, people of coastal areas did not sleep fearing that huge waves might strike anytime. They waited till early morning when the tsunami warning was withdrawn. Some cracks were found in some of the houses and no damage to life or property was reported from any part of the state.

The district administration in Nagappattinam, which was the worst hit during 2004 tsunami, declared a public holiday today to all the schools and colleges, as people had not returned to their homes till noon today. Fishermen did not venture into the sea since the sea was rough and unpredictable.



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