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Tsunami memories haunt survivors

Two years after the killer waves struck Andhra coast, memories of that fateful day still trouble the affected people.

india Updated: Dec 25, 2006 23:24 IST

Two years after the tsunami struck the Andhra Pradesh coast, memories of that Black Sunday still haunt the survivors.

People in some coastal areas were caught unawares when two-five-metre high waves swept away those who could not flee to safety.

The death toll was not high compared to neighbouring Tamil Nadu or other affected places as the tsunami waves had subsided when they reached here and the coastal villages were able to return to normalcy soon.

The killer waves claimed 107 lives in six districts. Krishna district bore the brunt with 36 deaths followed by Prakasam district (32). Fatalities were also reported from West Godavari, East Godavari, Nellore and Guntur districts.

While accepting that the travails of nature is a way of life for people living along 1,000-km coastline of nine districts, tsunami was something they had never heard about.

"I have seen many cyclones but what happened on that day was something very unusual," recalled Krishnaiah, 55, a fisherman in Krishna district.

He and other fishermen who narrowly escaped said the people on the beach had no time to run.

"In case of cyclones you get an advance warning but tsunami gave no time for people to escape," said Raju, another fisherman.

He recalled that a tidal wave had swallowed up 25 people including women and children at the Manginapudi beach near Machilipatnam in Krishna district. They had gone there for a holy dip and to pray for better fortunes on the full moon day.

The disaster affected about 200,000 people, mostly fishermen, and caused a property loss of Rs.3.42 billion, destroying 1,349 houses. The fishermen lost 2,000 fishing boats.

The disaster forced some fishermen to look for alternative means of livelihood while it left an indelible fear in the hearts of some others.

However, numerous natural disasters that struck the coast in the past and lessons learnt from them helped the people and authorities to cope with the situation in the wake of tsunami. After the disaster, the state authorities added tsunami to its list of natural disasters.

The Andhra coast faces threat of cyclones every year and the cyclone of 1977, the worst in the state's history, had claimed 10,000 lives.

The central government had announced an assistance of Rs.1.38 billion to the tsunami-hit Andhra Pradesh while the state government had sought Rs.3.17 billion for temporary and permanent relief measures.

However, after providing immediate relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation works became sluggish. Even two years after the disaster, many affected fishermen have not received boats and nets promised by the government.

The construction of permanent houses for fishermen has not been completed either. The government had announced construction of 40,000 houses for fishermen living close to the coast but only 20 percent of them were built.

Each unit was to be built at a cost of Rs.40,000 and the beneficiary has to bear 50 percent of the cost. Officials said fishermen were not coming forward to avail of the benefit under the scheme.

A host of NGOs provided assistance to the affected fishermen. Some of them built houses and provided nets and boats to some fishermen who lost their livelihood.