12/31/2004, 00.00
Send to a friend

As the sea returns the dead it claimed, reconstruction becomes urgent in Tamil Nadu

by Nirmala Carvalho
Father Stanley, the parish priest of Our Lady of Presentation, is in charge of relief operations in the fishing villages around Colachel, on India's southern-most tip.

Colachel (AsiaNews) – Kanyakumari district is India's southern-most part. It used to be an important tourist destination; today it is a land of nightmares.

Five days after the deadly tsunami, sea waters are receding, but the sea is still throwing dead bodies onto the beach.

Father Stanley, parish priest at Our Lady of Presentation in Colachel, is working on relief operations. He is an eyewitness to those "first days, when bodies would come in with the waves; sometimes 20-25, thrown onto the beach in just a few minutes."

He is now in charge of relief work. St Mary's School, the parish's own school, is now a shelter for the homeless. The State Revenue Department has put him in charge of food and money distribution to survivors.

Speaking to AsiaNews, he could not hide how immense was the task he faced. "Volunteers from far and near have come to offer their services. First, we noted down the names of family members and their house numbers. Then, we took down the names of the dead. But we still haven't been able to catalogue all the dead and are now trying to get the names of all those missing".

"I have the wholehearted support of the nuns in the convents," he said. "They are going around tabulating the missing women and children. I have told them to talk and persuade distraught wives, mothers and sisters into giving us at least some details of the dead, even a photograph or a school report or school calendar. Even the smallest record will provide some documentary evidence to claim compensation."

In the meantime, the state government is paying out 100,000 rupees to the villagers, mostly poor fishermen, for each family member killed by the tsunami. Even though food, water and shelter are the most pressing needs, the money will be necessary to start rebuilding lives.

"These people will have to start from scratch," Father Stanley pointed out. "Whatever financial assistance they get is but a small token. They have such overwhelming sorrow to bear that will take time to heal."

Right now, he is working from dawn to dusk. "I am exhausted but I feel called to help these people, who are my people. We must rebuild their homes and help the village get back on its feet. Till then, they need our help."

"Aid is arriving but we must organise its distribution. Yesterday, an NGO brought food for 3,000 people. I wish they had brought it in packages because distributing it became a big problem. But we managed."

Father Stanley added that "residents from other villages came to tell us that there was no food in their villages. Here, there is plenty of food now, but no containers to send it to the other villages. I told one of my assistant-priests to do something about it, but we are seriously short of volunteers".

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
After tsunami cynicism assails Christians, Muslims and Hindus
Catholics show compassion and empathy to Muslim Acehnese victims
UN urges donors at Jakarta conference to give US$ 1bn for tsunami emergency
Religious and caste discrimination in government aid distribution in Tamil Nadu
The tragic fate of the children, the power of solidarity among different believers


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”