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TSUNAMI

TN’s island of neglect amid sea of public attention

Sunday 9 January 2005, by SREENIVASA RAGHAVAN*T.S.

KODIYANPALAYAM ISLAND: When the tsunami devastated Tamil Nadu coast, Nagapattinam and Velankanni grabbed the limelight. As days passed, several other villages equally affected by the killer waves attracted public attention. But one place continued to be neglected - Kodiyanpalayam, 80 km from Nagapattinam. It happens to be the only island in Tamil Nadu.

Kodiyanpalayam had four villages - Singaravelathattu, Pullumedu, Kannaki Nagar and Chinnavaykal. Only two villages remain now with a population of 1,700 people, as against the 2,700 who lived here before Black Sunday.

"Kodiyanpalayam and Singaravelathattu still remain together. The other three villages have got separated from the main island," says Veerathamizhan (57) a native of Kodiyanpalayam.

Singaravelathattu too exists only in name today. A visit to the village reveals that a place which once had over 100 hutments and 300 people now has Sivagami (38) and her daughter Jansi Rani (16) as its only inhabitants.

"We had a narrow escape. We escaped clinging to trees," said Sivagami.

It takes a two-hour gruelling walk to reach Kodiyanpalayam. The village seems to have had a charmed existence, not showing signs of great damage despite being surrounded by sea. "The first wave appeared at about 8.50 am. Around 8.55 am, there was another wave. Within five minutes came the third wave, which was the deadliest," says Chinnathambi (60).

Still, the tsunami could claim only 22 lives here. "Most of us took shelter on the open terrace and escaped. Besides, we had the sand dunes, which obstructed and weakened the force of the waves," says Govindarajan.

While the Nagapattinam district administration has reached rice and solatium to the people here, they are facing an acute shortage of drinking water.

See online : The Times of India

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