From Our Correspondents
The tsunami has caused extensive damage in many areas of Tamil Nadu, and Pondicherry particularly in Chennai, Cuddalore, Nagapat-tinam and Kanyakumari. Among these, Nagapattinam is the worst affected district in the state. Approximately 4,000 lives have been lost in this district alone.
According to Shri R.V.S. Marimuthu, Samyuktha Prant Sanghchalak of Tamil Nadu, ?Tremors were initially felt around 6.30 in the morning. Around 8.45 a.m. the sea waves rose upto 10 metres height and came rushing in at a terrific speed to engulf the huts, the houses, the tenements and shelters on the shores. People living in the coastal areas and those walking along the coast, children playing nearby, fishermen both in and out of the sea, were swept away in the blink of an eyelid. By 10.30 a.m., the Sangh Swayamsevaks swung into action to get engaged in relief work and salvage the dead. At 12.30 noon, the Swayamsevaks started distributing food packets. By evening, relief work acquired momentum with more and more Swayamsevaks and volunteers of many social service organisations like Ramakrishna Mutt, pressed into service. They co-ordinated their efforts to distribute food packets, clothes, blankets, baby food, etc. to the needy. In some places, relief centres were opened and food was prepared in temporary kitchens erected to provide food round the clock. Soon about 800 Swayamsevaks gathered to involve themselves in relief work. Around 20,000 food packets were distributed on December 26 itself. Six medical centres were opened for providing medical assistance. The response from the general public was also spontaneous as a result of which clothes arrived at the relief centres in a big way,? he said.
The RSS has, besides mobilising the volunteers locally, rushed volunteers from Coimbatore, Madurai, Salem, Trichy, Ambur and Erode to the tsunami-affected areas. Outside reinforcements were directed mainly to Nagapattinam, which is the worst affected as 3,000 lives have been lost here so far.
Shri Marimuthu said that a survey was being conducted in the coastal belt to assess the extent of the damage and identify the areas that need rehabilitation. ?In the coming days,? he said, ?it has been decided to take up rehabilitation work on a larger scale, particularly in providing boats, fishing nets, blankets, utensils, notebooks, textbooks to students, construction of houses, etc.? He said the victims did need immediate help for repairing their damaged fishing boats, buying fishing nets and for meeting the diesel needs of mechanised fishing boats. He said an office had been started for relief work in the Sangh Karyalaya, Chennai. Shri Bhaktavatsalam, Sah-Prant Pra-charak is co-ordinating the relief work.
Disposal of Dead Bodies
More than 500 Swayamsevaks are engaged in removing the dead bodies. So far the state administration has removed 2,000 and the Swayamsevaks have removed 805. The massive work of disposal of the dead by burial or cremation was virtually handled mainly by the RSS volunteers and as many as 1,500 dead bodies were given a decent funeral in Nagapattinam area alone. Since the Collector of Nagapattinam had sent an SOS to the local RSS workers, the state leadership sent volunteers from all over the state to Nagapattinam.
Two ambulances, one each from Salem and Coimbatore, were rushed to Nagapattinam for rescue and relief operations. Relief in the form of rice, dal, clothes and medicines from all parts of the state is pouring into the district.
In the Kolachal area of Kanyakumari district, more than 200 Swayamsevaks are engaged in relief activities. Seeing the excellent work being done by the Swayamsevaks, members of the Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam from the Melapalayam area of Coimbatore attacked them, thus preventing them from extending relief. To avoid any untoward happening at this crucial moment, the Swayamsevaks withdrew from the place. But the local people wanted only the Swayamsevaks to carry on with the relief work. Many members of the Christian community had also expressed similar sentiments. Government officials contacted the Sewa Bharati members and requested them to continue with the rescue and relief work.
Training for Relief Distribution
At Kolachal, the RSS, in a joint effort with the Ramakrishna Mission, undertook the task of distributing vessels for cooking. A medical camp was organised by Dr Srinivasa Kannan, Nagar Sangachalak and Dr Deiva Prakasam, district president, Sewa Bharati in Nagarcoil. So far five such camps have been held.
A seven-day RSS camp was going on in Tamil Nadu. The Swayamsevaks at Vandavasi camp collected money for relief by asking for funds from house to house. One of the villages badly affected in Kanyakumari district is Pallam. RSS Swayamsevaks are actively engaged in relief work in this village, which has a predominantly Christian community and who regretted that no Christian had come forward to help them so far.
Sewa Bharati, Gujarat donates Rs 50 lakh
Sewa Bharati, Gujarat has sent immediate relief of Rs 50 lakh to help the tsunami victims. Shri Vallabhbhai Savalia, managing trustee of Sewa Bharati, Gujarat, along with other trustees reached Chennai to identify the requirements of the relief to be provided further. Sewa Bharati has also sent a team of 15 doctors to help the victims. It has also decided to utilise the expertise, acquired in rehabilitating the earthquake victims in Gujarat.
Relief teams comprising the Sangh Swayamsevaks swung into action in the worst affected Nellore and Prakasam districts of Andhra Pradesh and engaged themselves in relief and rescue operations. An eye camp is scheduled to be held at Mypadu in Nellore district. Doctors and other paramedical staff from Jaya Bharat Hospital, affiliated to Sewa Bharati, Nellore, were present when the calamity broke out. The Collector of the district felt relieved to hear that 43 persons had been rescued by the RSS Swayamsevaks. Additional batches of workers also reached Mypadu, Iskapalli and Channayapalem villages taking chapatis and tamarind rice packets to distribute among the displaced persons.
According to Dr K. Sukumar, Prant Pracharak of eastern Andhra Pradesh, some two scores of fishermen, who were feared to have been lost off the Iskapalli coast, reached safely Karedu in Prakasam district. At Singaraya Konda, 2,000 persons from the coastal villages have been provided shelter in a camp and arrangement for food and medical assistance is continuing with the help of local rice-millers and other philanthropic individuals. Dr Sukumar pointed out that fishermen were the worst hit as strong currents had washed away thousands of fishing boats and fishing nets. In Andhra Pradesh, Nellore, Prakasam, Krishna, east Godavari, Vishaka and Vijaya Nagaram were the worst affected districts.
Swayamsevaks have started relief work in various parts of coastal Andhra Pradesh. Batches of Sangh Swayamsevaks have reached Mypadu, Iskapalli, Koduru, Channayapalem and Krishnapuram villages and nearly 7,000 food packets had been distributed in these villages on the very first day. A temporary relief camp was started in Singarayakonda and Prakasam districts and the local Swayamsevaks are helping the government authorities. Three medical vans from Guntur district went to Prakasam district with preventive medicines and a batch of 50 Swayamsevaks from Kanigiri also joined the team. A batch of RSS workers in Natha Ramewsaram of east Godavari district has also started relief camps in the same area. Local Sangh Pracharak, Chitti Babu, with others workers are engaged in relief work. Besides fishing nets and boats, textbooks, notebooks and clothing for affected students in the coastal area are absolutely necessary. Construction of houses and undertaking reconstruction and repair of temples will also be done by Sangh Swaymsevaks.
The Swayamsevaks also conducted a door-to-door survey in 65 villages (out of the 82 affected villages) in Prakasam and Nellore districts and have estimated that damage has been to the tune of Rs 24 crores. The total number of villages (belonging to the fishermen community) across the coastal belt is 520 out of which 300 villages are seriously affected. Fishermen are not keen to move their damaged boats and other equipments as they are awaiting insurance survey.
The RSS is providing relief work in Andhra Pradesh in the name of Jana Sankshema Samithi (Regd No 141/92), Vijayawada. Any help for the victims can be sent to Jana Sankshema Samithi, Vijayawada at Madhava Sadhan, Kaleswara Rao Road, Vijaywada-520 002 (Andhra Pradesh); phone: 0866-2435199.
Karunagapally taluka has been witness to the fury of the coastal storm in Kerala. Around 86 people have died, but the casualties are definitely going to be more. Over 66,00 people are housed in 26 relief camps. Swayamsevaks are managing 14 camps, beside operating six ambulances. They are providing food, clothes, medicines and beddings. An estimated 800 houses have been washed away. In Alappuzha area, 23 people are feared to be dead. More bodies are being recovered. Over 800 houses have been damaged; most of them belong to the poor fishermen. Relief camps are being run by Sewa Bharati, which has opened a relief camp in Kayamkulam Taluka Hospital. In Ernakulam district, an RSS training camp has been converted into a relief camp. Food and medicines have been arranged to help the 600 inmates. Further help is pouring in.