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First Tsunami Field report

REPORT FROM MR. VICTOR PAINADATH FROM NAGAPATTINAM

Report of Emergency Relief Work in India for people affected by Tsunami disaster on December 26, 2004

This report is sent from Nagapattinam town which was the worst affected area in India. It is 48 hours now since the Tsunami hit this town. The roads are full of mud and dirt as the sea water has recessed. There are debris of broken walls, boats, shoes and other debris. The place has the pungent smell of dead bodies. The main activity here is cleaning up the whole place. Shops are closed and life is at stand still.

We saw a hundred people running shouting that the waters are coming again. We ran for our lives through the narrow lanes and rushed into a well built temple. I saw women crying loud in panic, children running trembled to their mothers! There was nothing except for some one having seen the waves hitting the shores rather high. I narrate this to say that people live in terrible fears here. Almost half of the population has been moved by the Government to safer places and many others have themselves left for places unknown. We see still families in bullock carts on the roads moving to places of safety.

Velanganni is a small catholic pilgrimage town near with huge shrines of Mother Mary. I had visited this town last week, today all the shops where I bought candles last week are n more there, instead I see debris and dirt alone all there. We saw women sitting at the doors of the church for arriving dead bodies. A shed near the church is the mortuary with no air cooling and decayed dead bodies still there. The bodies are mass buried after mounting photos of the dead on wall. Anxious relatives of missing people search through them, when someone found the picture of his dear and near ones burst into loud tears.

Cuddalore is a small town at 100 kms from here and near to Pondichery. My colleague reports on huge settlements of people who are relocated. The district of Kanyakumari which is about 500 kms from here is another affected district. My colleague there reports on 750 children with their families living in a school building now, there are many human settlements there too.

The total deaths in India are reported to be about 10,000. An estimated half a million are affected. Most of the families on sea shores are poor fishermen. They have lost their huts and have no places to live. Their boats are all damaged and are anxious on how to earn their livelihood in future. The affected areas are from Kanyakumari in the south to Machilipattinam in Andhra region, sea cost extending about 800 kms.

Needs of children

An estimated 30,000 children are in need of immediate assistance in terms of food, clothes, medical care and housing with their families. The children are living with their parents in settlements either organized by the Government or arranged by the families themselves.

There are reports on children whose parents lost their lives in the waters. We are still to know more about such cases. They will need long term care in an SOS Children's Village

The families where the men are perished while fishing in the seas are at greater needs as their only bread earning person of the family is no more. These families will need direct assistance for their children.

Long term needs of the affected people will be housing and repair/replacement of their fishing boats/nets. The Government has declared assistance to affected families. However it needs to be supplemented by assistance from people and organizations.

SOS Disaster Programs for Children.

Immediately now we are in the process of organizing relief to children who are in emergency. We are creating Child Relief Centers at different locations details of which are below.

We will also identify children who lost their parents in the waters and organize long term care to such children initially at temporary care centers in the affected areas and later at an SOS Children's Village. We will also identify families which need support for some years to meet needs of children, especially to widows and their children.

We may later need to support families to build families/repair nets/boats.

SOS Child Relief Centers.

We work in three worst affected districts of Tamilnadu and Pondichery.

Nagapattinam with focus on Nagapattinam Town and Velanganni

Cuddalore with focus on Kalipet and Sirkali

Kanyakumari wit focus on Kulachil

At all these places people have been resettled temporarily at safer places away from the sea. Some of them are at 1 km and others are at 20 kms from the sea side. Each settlement is with 2000-3000 people. We have opened Child Relief Centers at such centers within the campus where people live or at proximity. People feel very insecure and we need to care for the children at places close to where the parents/relatives are.

We are opening 8 emergency centres in Nagapattinam, 4 in Cuddalore and 4 in Kanyakumari. Total 16 centers. Each of these centers will support 200-300 children. This will care for about 3000-4000 children in the affected areas.

The program is to support children with clothes, nutrition and medical care as well as to provide some engagements for 3 hours every day to help children cope up with the trauma caused by death and damage made from monstrous waters.

The activities are coordinated by Mr.Victor and supported by Mr.Srinvas and Mr.Sudish at Nagapattinam, Mr. Jijith at Cuddalore and Mr.Shibin at Kanyakumari. We are recruiting volunteers, mostly elder girls, from the affected community to engage children. Supplies like Clothes and food are organized from larger cities nearby. We will move in a medical team if necessary.

We will continue the program as long as people continue to live in these temporary settlements. We will then review the needs of the children and relocate the programs if needed.

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Our Family Strengthening Programmes aim to prevent street children. By keeping families together, children can grow up safely in their own environments.