Tsunami Rebuilding Projects
Report from Elsie Daniel, DPM-India 31 January 2005
The Tsunami strike on 26th December 2004 left a trail of death, destruction and sorrow all along the coast of our state Tamil Nadu and the adjacent state of Pondicherry. These were the two most seriously affected areas in India. Of these, the particular districts/villages that had a high loss of lives and property were Nagapattinam town, Velankanni and Karaikal.
Several thousand people all across India jumped into action immediately after the Tsunami and aid came from all across the country to Nagapattinam and Velankanni. However, we felt that Karaikal was being neglected as a result of this, and Daniel and I led a team of our friends and church members to go into this district.
We put together an assortment of things that we felt were the most important and immediate needs for the people Ð sheets (74 from DPM), packets of drinking water, sleeping mats, water pots, plates, biscuits, cooking utensils, soaps and toothpaste. As food was being provided by the Government at relief camps, schools and churches, we felt that these would be the most pressing needs of the people.
In Karaikal, we were able to meet the people at the scene of the devastation. We walked to the sites that were once their homes - nothing remains but damaged cement floors. One or two concrete houses that stand look like haunted houses inside. There is a thick layer of black sand that the seawater seems to have brought up and deposited on everything inside these houses.
Ps. Vincent's church preserved the 700 people of his congregation on that Sunday morning as they all ran up to the balcony and third floors of the church. Water came up to a height of 5 ft into the church which is already 4 ft higher than ground level.
The Pastor's wife who first looked out of the church when she heard a woman scream on the road, says she saw the huge sea wave coming very fast in at the height of a coconut tree and soon everywhere she looked she saw only the sea. They are one kilometre away from the shore and every little hut and house behind them was completely washed away. 100 members of the congregation were washed away into the bushes opposite the church but were safely brought in after the water receded a little. A lady felt the wave grab her baby but in two minutes the same wave brought her baby right back into her arms. There was not one casualty in the church. They saw hundreds of other people being washed away right in front of them. When the water receded there were bodies all around.
Before we left for Karaikal, we heard a lot of reports that relief material was being confiscated by corrupt officials all along the way and we did encounter this problem. However, Daniel spoke to the officer and told him that we were taking material to our own church people who were affected, not for public distribution. This of course was not quite the truth (we are all part of the one church, the Body of Christ), but we got let off at that and managed to safely take in the things to Karaikal. Here we were in contact with the local Pastor, Rev. Lourdu Vincent. We believe that God lead us to this man because it was through him that we came to see all work that was being done was temporary and none of it was going to benefit the people in the long run.
Amidst tears he told us that people who came in to give relief material were throwing them out like to beggars. Although his congregation in Karaikal had been safe, 45 of his members at Velankanni branch church had been washed away, most of them children. He reminded us that many of the people who were now paupers and dependant on the help they receive, prior to the Tsunami were well settled fishermen who had a good life. None of them were beggars or living on alms. Although they may not have had big sums of money to store in banks or live a luxurious life, they were all men with self-respect and a trade that helped them look after their families well.
He helped us realize that all the aid that came in was helping only to meet the immediate need of the people and that soon they would need to look after themselves. We are feeding them for today but what about their future? - was the question he put to us. Although the Government promised large sums of money, so far we have not seen any of it coming into the hands of the people who are most affected. They promised an immediate relief of Rs. 5,000/- (NZ$170) on television, brought it down to Rs. 2,000/- ($70) at the district levels and finally handed out only Rs. 1,000/- (NZ$35) to the people at the relief camps, most of whom had medical and day to day needs that exceeded the sums given to them.
After our visit to the affected areas we have been burdened to help the fishermen rebuild their future. Although large amounts are needed to buy nets and boats, we need to help them make a start. When we talked to these people, they came up with the request that we provide them a medium net costing NZ$350. Although this will not be completely sufficient for their future, it will help them make a start and get back to fishing, from where they will be able to make a living and then buy the fishing nets they need. We believe we have been able to identify 80 fishermen who need nets but, out of these 45 who need them most urgently.
Therefore the immediate need is 45 x $350. DPM-India will buy the nets and personally hand them out to the affected fishermen.
There are also a number of Pastors who have lost their churches and homes. We will be meeting with these Pastors once again on the 4th of February to further assess the extent of the damage and their needs.
We also request that you continue to uphold us in prayer, especially for wisdom as we deal with people. Before we can even think of meeting their needs, we need to be able to reach out to them and comfort them in their grief. Many of them have lost family members and are still in deep shock. So please pray that the compassion of Jesus will flow through us and that we will be able to speak the right words of consolation in season.
Thank you, Elsie and Daniel, DPM-India.
As you can see, DPM is now in action with the first phase of our Tsunami rebuilding projects.
DPM-India will continue to work directly with the local Pastors in order to convert your financial gifts into the materials urgently needed to help these families rebuild their communities. DPM-Asia/Pacific and DPM-India will take no overhead costs off your donation apart from the costs of transport, food and accommodation for the DPM-India staff and church volunteers who will be involved in the relief work. Will you please join us in this urgent need as we stand alongside local Pastors and Christian leaders in helping them to rebuild their church communities and the lives of the people around about them?
Warren Smith, Regional Director,