Two years after the tsunami ravaged this green archipelago and claimed thousands of lives, the administration of Andaman and Nicobar on Tuesday said every attempt would be made to complete construction of permanent shelters for those left homeless by the killer waves.
Permanent shelters are being constructed at 70 locations in 10 islands, Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner-cum-Secretary Dharm Pal told reporters here.
The initial proposal of constructing 9,714 permanent housing units by December 2007 has been revised to 9,797 after a request by the Tribal Council and members of the local community, he said.
All the shelters will be handed over by December 2007, except for those in Great Nicobar, where it will take some more time to complete the shelters.
Key Facts on Tsunami
• Toll of dead and missing: 229,361 (Govt figures)
• Number of dead and missing in Indonesia: 169,000
• Number of foreigners killed or unaccounted for: 2,672
• Number of countries affected: 13 (Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Madagascar, Maldives, Malaysia, Myanmar, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania, Kenya, Bangladesh)
• Number of people displaced: 2,089,883
• Number of people who lost their livelihoods: 1.5 million
• Ratio of women and children killed to men: 3:1
•Duration of earthquake that triggered the 2004 Asian tsunami: eight minutes
• Total aid pledges, including official aid and private donations: around $13.6 billion, more than enough to rebuild.
• Private donations alone: $5.7 billion.
• Total damages: $10.73 billion; rebuilding costs: $10.375 billion.
(Sources: UN office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, Oxfam International, Reuters Alertnet, Govt data)
Pal said the challenges for construction in Great Nicobar Islands are immense because of the scattered nature of the islands. All construction materials also have to be transported from the main land.
Meanwhile, with memories of the tsunami of December 26, 2004 still fresh in their minds, the kin of victims of the disaster in different islands offered special prayers on the second anniversary of the tragedy.
In Hyderabad, special pujas were held by women belonging to fishermen community at Visakhapatnam and other coastal areas to ward off tsunami- like disasters.
Women belonging to Gangaputra (fishermen community) thronged the Visakhapatnam seashore in large numbers, offered prayers to `Gangamma Talli' (Goddess Ganga) and broke coconuts as part of the ritual.
"This is our tradition. We always offer prayers at the sea shore as the sea is our mother. We seek her blessings on all occasions", a devotee offering puja at Visakhapatnam seashore, said.
Coastal districts of Nellore, Prakasham, Guntur, Krishna, East and West Godavari districts, and Visakhapatnam had been a victim of the tsunami waves two years ago.
In Tamil Nadu, 'Boston day' on which the tsunami tragedy struck many coastal hamlets of Tamil Nadu two years ago, was observed through homage and special prayers to the thousands of victims who lost their lives to the killer waves.
Fishing activity came to a standstill as fishermen refrained from venturing into the sea in memory of their kin, who were swallowed by the tsunami.
At Velankanni and Keechankuppam in Nagapattinam district, which was the worst hit, special prayers and condolence meetings were held and floral tributes were paid to the victims.
Similar meetings were held in Cuddalore, which also bore the brunt of the tsunami.
Various political parties and fishermen's associations held rallies and silent marches at Srinivaspuram in Mylapore and various parts of North Chennai to pay homage to the victims.
Fishermen observed the day as "Black day" and tied black flags to their anchored boats, even now haunted by their experience two years ago.
The Kerala government announced a Rs 100 crore package for the tsunami-affected coastal region, including Rs one lakh each for tsunami-hit families.
The displaced families would receive Rs one lakh each and in four years about one lakh houses would be built in the affected areas, Chief Minister VS Achutanandan said while inaugurating the Social Security Scheme for tsunami victims in Alappad.
Stating that bank debts of tsunamis would be written off, the chief minister said the Maharashtra government had already sanctioned Rs 12 crore for carrying out relief works in the affected regions.
Achutanandan also laid the foundation stone for the memorial to be built here for tsunami victims.