Asian Tsunami Heros

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

An unsung hero in MGR Thittu island

Cuddalore (TN), Jan 11: For two youths of the deserted MGR Thittu Island, on the southern tip of this Tamil Nadu district, it was a different homecoming!
Souri Rajan, an unsung hero, came back quietly with his friend Vellichittam, who was admitted in a government hospital with a leg wound when a wooden log hit him as the tsunami struck.
Rajan had been inspecting the fishing nets on December 26 when his "fisherman's instinct told him something was wrong. The sea had changed colour from pleasant blue-grey to a dull mud red. There was a hissing sound and when I looked up the level of water had already risen," the 23-year-old once resident of the destroyed island said.
"Before I had time to take in what was happening, a whole wall of muddy water was approaching the island," he said. He untied the nearest boat and loaded the panic-stricken villagers into it. "There were more than 70 people in the boat which can at best hold 20," he said. "Still, I could not take all the 10-12 people trapped in the island," he said.
However, the engine of the overloaded boat failed a few metres from the island. Rajan tied the boat to a pole in the water and waded back in the knee-deep water to retrieve the trapped islanders. "I was almost near the school building when the second wave crashed and toppled everything in sight, it nearly carried me away. So, I had no other option but to climb to the roof-top of the school building," he said.
Rescue boats from the mainland, meanwhile, carried the stranded villagers to safety and when the tide subsided, the trapped people in the island were also brought back to the mainland. "I only wish I could have collected the rest of the islanders who were killed in the waves," he says.
But as 19-year-old Velillichittam, who was discharged from the Chidambaram government hospital only yesterday, approached the ruins of his house for the first time after the tsunami, disbelief mingled with shock at the sight of his fishing boat cleaved from the middle.
The boy, who had tried to outrun the surging wall of water, said "for 16 days I was at the hospital not getting any news of what happened to my home. Now that I see nothing has remained erect, I don't know what to tell my parents at the relief camp," a visibly emotional Vellichittam said.
While most people have either gone back to their villages from the relief camps either to collect belongings or to assess damage and start some reconstruction, around 170 families of the MGR Thittu island, around 40 kms from Cuddalore town, have deserted what was once their home and have put up at the Killai relief camp in mainland. (Agencies)

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