Sunday, December 25, 2005
My friend, the sea...
But deep inside, they also know that one day it may turn against them again. Until then…
A quiet fishing village Kokillamedu, near Chennai, on the southern coast of India. The houses that stood on the shorefront have given way to grass and plants. A little distance away, the sea is a light blue and the waves play gently on the beach. The sea seems to stretch to eternity, going far beyond the horizon. It seems friendly and almost welcoming. But a year ago, the sea changed its character. For one horrible day it swept inland, taking with it anything and anyone it could find. It was a tsunami and the people were shocked, they did not know what was happening. Even the oldest resident of that village said that he had never seen something like this before.
Kesavamurthy, a student of Std. VIII, says he was playing by the sea that Sunday when suddenly he noticed the strange behaviour of the waves. They rose up high. Almost as high as that coconut tree," he says pointing. I ran home, because I knew my sister was alone there. She is only four." Together they ran away from their home and their friend, the sea.
I was helping my mother with the cooking , says Valli, Std. VII. I heard shouting and running and then I saw what was happening. Yes, I was very frightened." One year later, the memories of that day linger on. Luckily for us, there was no loss of life here. But we lost all our things. They were just washed away, says Balasubramaniam, Std. VII. Looking back, the children are stoic, they remember the tsunami as one of nature's vagaries. "The sea is there. It won't do that again, says Arunachalam, Std. IV confidently. But sometimes when the wind howls through the trees it is a bit frightening, says Pandian.
I don't see any reason for fear. We have lived here for so long and the sea was always close by. Why would it want to hurt us again? says Manjumadha, Std. VI. Life goes on much as usual. The village elders ensure that everyone gets their share of the aid that comes in. Boats go out to sea early morning, bringing back hordes of fish. The women take the fish to the market to sell. While the men sleep off their tiredness, the children are at school. Vijay, Std. VI, is philosophical in his outlook. The sea will not harm us, he says. Though he is not able to state reasons for this confidence.
Since that fateful day, the children have been reading, studying and watching the television for news about tsunamis. Having watched it close up they wanted to know more. In Japan, tsunamis are a common feature, they say. They have learnt to live with them. The children go to school, play cricket on the shore, play in the sea, lie down on the beach all the while knowing that their friend the sea may one day turn against them again. But for them, their home is by the seashore and the sea will always be their friend.
On December 26, 2004, the Indian coastline experienced the most devastating tsunami in recorded history. According to the National Institute of Oceanography, the tsunami was triggered by an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 on the Richter scale at 3.4° N, 95.7° E off the coast of Sumatra in the Indonesian Archepelago at 06:29 hrs IST (00:59 hrs GMT). The earthquake epicentre is located relatively at shallow depth, about 10 km below the ocean floor. The high magnitude, 9.0 Richter scale, of the earthquake and its shallow epicentre may have triggered the tsunami in the northeast Indian Ocean. These travelled in open ocean of the Bay of Bengal and subsequently transformed into a train of catastrophic oscillations on the sea surface close to coastal zones of Sri Lanka and east coast of India.
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