Saturday, January 01, 2005

Tsunami - Some reactions

Archana Meiyappan

“We were staying at a beach resort on the outskirts of Pondicherry over that weekend. On Sunday morning, I stayed in the room while my husband Karthik, and our two sons went down to the beach. My sons were in the water, when Karthik noticed something wrong with the way the waves looked. They seemed to be unusually high and were proceeding towards the shore very rapidly. He told the boys to start running, and all three of them reached the resort and then our room on the first floor. From the window in our room, we could see one other guest and a couple who were staying there, struggling in the water. We later learnt that the couple were fine. The water started receding, so, we went down to the lobby. The hotel was surrounded by water. We went back up to the room to call our folks to tell them that we were alright. And then we saw the water rising again! When we came back down, we could see a dining table afloat in the water, and the belongings of the guests staying in the ground floor room washed away. And to think we were offered the ground floor room first! Anyhow, we returned to Chennai via the Tindivanam route instead of East Coast Road. We then saw on TV, the extent of the disaster, and were quite shaken by it.”

Raghu, Visualiser, BrandComm

“Like many people in Chennai, I used to play cricket with my friends on Marina Beach on Sunday mornings. Last Sunday too, we were at it. There must have been about 1500 people on the beach that morning. During our game, we happened to notice on the water, a few steamboats moving very rapidly. They looked quite unusual, as they seemed to be covering great distance in a very short span of time. Moreover, we couldn’t see anyone manning the boat. Within about 30 seconds, they were almost on to us. So, we ran away from the water, some of us leaving motorbikes behind, others carrying their cycles with them. We later returned when the water had receded and the bodies were being removed. We saw one of the places where the waves must have crashed on the land, as there was a pit, about 5 to 6 feet deep and almost 10 metres wide. Thankfully, all of us escaped. But I am sorry for people who lived around there or slept on the beach overnight, who were swept away.”

Sharad Singhi

My birthday was on Saturday, and we were celebrating along with some of my friends at Silver Sands’ Adventure Zone. We pitched tents and stayed on the beach on Friday and Saturday night. We had also taken along equipment like a home theatre system etc.

On Sunday morning, at around 6.30, I closed my tent, and ordered breakfast. A little later, my wife alerted us to the fact that the water was moving forward, and towards us. This place is actually 10 ft. above sea level. We initially thought, it was just high tide, but it kept rising and within 15-20 seconds, it looked like a wall of water coming in our direction.

My son ran towards the road, and the rest of us were swept by the wave. My friend who didn’t know to swim, held on to a tree. My family and a few friends and their children, reached a structure that was meant to be rooms for the resort. My friend’s wife was wearing a saree, and she needed to be rescued. I went back, and tried to help her, but her saree got caught in a tree. I had to take her saree off, and take her with me towards the structure. Even after the water receded, there was still about 5 to 6 ft of water left. Then we realised that one of our friends had been sleeping in the tent. Apparently he had heard the commotion, and came out, then ran towards the road.

There was a 3ft x 9 ft. freezer in the kitchen there, and I later found it outside, about 200 metres away. There was a stone wall, and some platforms, that ceased to exist after this happened.

We reached the road, found my son, and started walking away from the seaside. We took the road to Chingleput, and tried to hitch a ride from cars and vans on the road. Nobody stopped for us despite the fact that there were young children in our group. The children had to walk barefoot, for almost 7 kilometres and nobody in the group had any water or food until we reached Chennai at 5 p.m. We didn’t have any money either. None of the telephones were working. The person at the tollbooth lent us the phone so we could inform our people at home that we were fine. 

If that structure hadn’t been there, 4 people from my group could have died. Also, if we hadn’t been awake when this happened, we would have got swept away along with the tent.

I went back to see the place on Tuesday, and I am still amazed that we are alive.

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