December 2014

Minister inspects Poompuhar fishing harbour work

The fishing harbour under construction at Poompuhar will fetch annual revenue of Rs.150 crore for fishermen of 20 villages in the district, said K.A.Jayapal, Minister for Fisheries, here on Thursday.

After inspecting the harbour under construction, Mr. Jayapal said that retaining walls would be constructed to a cumulative length of 1,490 metre, including 390 metres on the northern side.

The project involved an expenditure of Rs.78.50 crore and it would benefit fishermen of Thoduvai, Tirumullaivayil, Melammovarkarai, Keezgamoovarkarai, Chavadikuppam, Naaickarkuppam, Madathukupam, Thazhampettai, Pudupettai, Perumalpettai, Vellakovil, and Kuttiyandiyur.

Mr.Jayapal said the harbour, once commissioned, would generate direct employment to 12,000 fishermen in the area. T.Munusamy, District Collector, and S.Paunraj, Nagapattinam MLA, accompanied him.

Indian Navy ignored during tsunami for want of media policy (Comment: Special to IANS)

Boxing Day reminded me of Dec 26, 2004, the day the tsunami trampled Aceh in Indonesia, Galle and Trincomalee in Sri Lanka and devastated the east coast of India. An air force plane enabled me to be in Galle that fateful day.
Captain Murlidharan Nair, Captain T. Asokan and a host of other naval officers from Kochi were holidaying on the high seas with their families when news of the tsunami reached them. Families returned home in smaller boats even as reinforcements arrived for the navy to advance with 37 ships to ports in the eye of the tsunami.
Galle's ample harbour was choked with debris, which included giant trees, smashed boats, furniture, doors, household goods and bloated carcasses.
The host country, Sri Lanka were astonished at the efficiency with which Indian officers and men could clear Galle and Trinco harbours. It was a heartwarming Indian show along a vast stretch of the coastline from Indonesia, Sri Lanka to India.
Then something quite extraordinary happened.
A giant US warship docked a few meters at sea, visible from the Galle airport from where I was to be flown to New Delhi. The first passengers to disembark from the warship were two US cameramen. A speed boat brought them ashore where a high platform was in readiness for the cameramen to position themselves.
Then came the marines with gear that would be impressive on film. Americans had arrived on relief duty with great fanfare.
It was dark by the time I reached New Delhi. Next morning's newspapers were a shock. Across six columns of the Times of India was a photograph of the US ship disgorging marines, engineers, grenadiers. The headline in heavy font was: "American ship brings relief." Not a word about the Indians.

India announces US $1 million for UN tsunami fund

Ten years after a massive Tsunami triggered by an earthquake smashed the coastline of around 14 nations, India announced one million US dollar contribution to a UN fund for strengthening early warning systems for natural disasters.

India's Ambassador to Thailand Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Friday announced the contribution of one million US dollar to the Tsunami Trust Fund of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) to further strengthen the process of building resilience to natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a statement of UN Information Centre for India and Bhutan.

The donation will also ensure that vulnerable communities receive the timely warning information that is required to save lives and livelihoods in disasters.

United Nations Under-Secretary-General and ESCAP Executive Secretary, Shamshad Akhtar said that they are extremely pleased to partner with the Government of India to further strengthen regional early warning systems and build resilience to natural disasters.

A 9.3-magnitude earthquake off Indonesia's western point generated a series of massive tsunamis that smashed the coastline of 14 countries, including India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Somalia.

Tamil Nadu pays homage to 2004 tsunami victims

CHENNAI: People along Tamil Nadu's coastal districts affected by the 2004 tsunami paid tearful homage to the thousands who were swallowed by the killer wave on this day 10 years ago.

Over 8,000 people were killed in Tamil Nadu by the giant wave in 2004.

On the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, relatives and friends of those who lost their lives held silent rallies and special services in the tsunami affected areas like Velankanni, Nagapattinam, Cuddalore, Chennai and others.

They offered milk and flowers at the sea for the dead.

Fishermen in many villages stayed away from fishing as a mark of respect to the victims.

In many coastal districts, shops were closed as a mark of respect to those who were killed by the giant wave.

"Rallies and prayers were held. Fishermen did not go for fishing in Nagapattinam district," V Kumaravelu, an activist, told IANS from Nagapattinam.

"While people have rebuilt their lives, many did get the central government's relief amount. The tsunami houses are in a bad condition and many do not even have water connection. This is the major problem now for the people," he said.

Silent prayers, procession mark tsunami anniversary

Silent prayers, procession and floral tributes marked the 10th anniversary of the tsunami, which struck Puducherry and Karaikal regions on December 26, 2004. Relatives of those who perished thronged beaches and offered floral tributes.

Chief Minister N. Rangasamy, Speaker V. Sabapathy, Ministers T. Thiagarajan, and N.G. Pannirselvam offered floral tributes near the Gandhi statue on the Beach promenade.

A wreath was also placed at the memorial erected in Veerampattinam in memory of those who were killed while many poured milk in the sea and performed rituals.

Silent processions by political parties, National Fish Workers Forum (NFF) and civil society organisations also formed part of the anniversary in Puducherry. As a mark of respect, fishermen in several coastal hamlets did not venture into the sea.

In Karaikal, an enclave of the Union Territory which bore the brunt of the tsunami, fishermen took out processions in coastal villages and offered floral tributes at memorials. Several fishing hamlets also hoisted black flags in memory of the departed souls.

A number of voluntary organisations and also the Government of Maharashtra had constructed houses under the rehabilitation programmes in Veerampattinam and a few other coastal hamlets here and in Karaikal.

Ten years after the tsunami, we still don’t have any real port in a storm

Ramachandran is a middle-ranking official at the collectorate in Nagapattinam. A history buff, his weekends are usually spent on unearthing the port town’s past. “Everyone comes to Nagapattinam either to visit Velankanni [church] or for tsunami-related stories. Why don’t you write on this port town’s ancient maritime trade links with Southeast Asia, China, Rome and Greece instead,” he asked me lightheartedly.
Like Ramachandran, Tamil Nadu too seems to be suffering from tsunami fatigue — or rather amnesia. At least that’s what I felt during my recent trip to the coastal districts of the state, many of which were ripped apart by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed more than 12,000 people and displaced 380,000, largely fisherfolk.
Individually, however, everyone remembers his or her losses to the last detail. Institutional memory is also strong. Districts that were hit by the tsunami are planning an array of events today: Candlelight marches, mock drills, human chains, tsunami awareness programmes, etc.
The tsunami amnesia and fatigue, however, are showing up somewhere else: In the past 10 years, there has been little training of coastal communities in disaster preparedness. After the 2004 disaster, India deployed a sophisticated warning system and joined forces with foreign governments and agencies for timely warnings. At the village level, public address systems were set up in public places to cascade timely warnings, SMS alerts on the weather situation were started and multi-hazard shelters, roads (to facilitate easy evacuation) and tsunami/cyclone-resistant homes were built (though their quality is suspect in many places and this underlines the dire need for stringent transparency in rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts after a disaster).

Indian Ocean tsunami anniversary: ‘Tsunami taught administrative as well as lessons for life’

Chennai, Dec 26: The 2004 tsunami that left over 8,000 people dead and lives of several lakhs upside down as it carved a trail of destruction and despair in Tamil Nadu also taught the administration several valuable lessons in disaster management and relief, said a senior official who was then heading a district which faced the brunt.

“It was a very costly lesson in disaster rehabilitation, though we still wish the lesson could have been learnt in a text-book than being on the field post a major disaster,” state Health Secretary J.Radhakrishnan, then collector of Nagapattinam that was worst-affected among the state’s 13 coastal districts with 6,100 deaths, told IANS.

“The 2004 tsunami taught the government and officials several lessons on being prepared to meet the known and unknown hazards; involvement of community in reconstruction and rehabilitation; the essence of speed in decision-making; the administrative model to meet the immediate needs of the affected and others,” he said.

According to Radhakrishnan, whose grit and determination on the post-tsunami period is still recalled gratefully by villagers of Akkaraipettai in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu’s experience in rehabilitation and reconstruction activities is now taught to Indian Administrative Service officials. Radhakrishnan said the first lesson learnt is to be prepared for not only known hazards but also unknown ones. He said Nagapattinam is a cyclone-prone area but what was not known till 2004 was about a tsunami’s effect. “Even a country like Japan had to face a cascading effect of the earthquake in 2011. First there was an earthquake that triggered a tsunami. When the giant waves hit the land, nuclear power plants were severely affected,” he said.

Indian Ocean tsunami: Then and now

A decade ago, one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded struck off the coast of Indonesia, triggering a tsunami that swept away entire communities around the Indian Ocean.

About 228,000 people were killed as a result of the 9.1 magnitude quake and the giant waves that slammed into coastlines on 26 December 2004.

The violent upward thrust of the ocean floor at 07:58 local time (00:58 GMT) displaced billions of tonnes of seawater, which then raced towards shorelines at terrifying speeds.

The waves stripped vegetation from mountain sides hundreds of metres inland, capsized freighters and threw boats into trees. The estimated cost of the damage was just under $10bn (£6.4bn).

Ten years on, many coastal towns and villages have rebuilt their communities and lives. The shores of Indonesia and Thailand, left ravaged by the tsunami, appear transformed.

A mini-doll’s decade of setting off waves of hope

Therapeutic clowning from Canada to a musical play as a tribute by a Finnish theatre group, a host of programmes will mark the 10th birthday celebrations of Auroville’s globe-trotting doll, the tsunamika.

Tsunamika, the miniature doll, was conceptualised by Auroville’s Upasana Design Studio in the wake of the tsunami of 2004 as a gift that would turn into a symbol of hope to those stricken by the tragedy. What started as a simple idea to engage women in tsunami-afflicted families around the Auroville bio-region in doll-making as a form of livelihood soon transformed into a fantastic story of post-trauma community rebuilding as well as a fine example of a gift economy that is wholly spurred by donations and where no doll is sold.

The tsunamika turns 10 on January 10, and several events have been planned at Auroville’s Bharat Nivas in celebration of a doll that has become a symbol of joy, hope and unconditional giving across the world.

“In scale, we have planned it to be an international event with a couple of overseas troupes coming down to perform in honour of tsunamika and the womenfolk associated with the project,” says Uma Prajapati, founder of Upasana. Photo exhibitions, workshops, art competition, food, handicraft stall, dance, storytelling sessions, live music and many more activities have been planned. A play from the National Theatre of Finland led by Liisa Isotalo will cap the celebrations.

For Upasana, the design studio founded in 1997, the havoc wrought by the tsunami in coastal hamlets became a trigger for focusing on the application of design for social welfare. And that was how the tsunamika story began as a special project.

10 years on, constructive work far from over

Even 10 years after the tsunami struck and left a trail of destruction, the Puducherry government still has a lot of unfinished work on its hands in terms of construction of houses for the displaced fisher folk families and plugging the gaps on the disaster preparedness front.

A visit to Nallavadu brought to the fore the sluggish progress in rehabilitation works with most of the families living in their impoverished dwelling units located close to the sea.

Scores of surviving families in the coastal village of Nallavadu near here, who were thrown out of their dwelling units after the killer waves struck on December 26, 2004, are now desperately waiting to be rehabilitated and to move into their new homes.

“The government has no full-fledged and fool proof record of the number of families. Although there are around 1,000 families in Nallavadu, the government had worked out rehabilitation plan to cover only 300 families. The fishermen had also avoided moving into the permanent dwelling units as the government had failed to build houses for all victims. Rehabilitation should be taken up for all the affected families at the same time,” said Kuppuraj, a fisherman of Nallavadu.

A few workers were engaged in laying sewerage pipelines while windowpanes and other amenities are yet to be provided in the dwelling units. The delay in rehabilitation is more traumatic than the impact caused by the tsunami.

A senior official in the Project Implementation Agency (PIA) said that the rehabilitation works had been planned to cover families living close to the shore while families who had claimed for housing assistance had relocated to other areas. The PIA is the authorised nodal agency of the Tsunami Rehabilitation Project.