Four days after the killer tsumanis wrecked the Tamil Nadu coast claiming over 6,500 lives, Colachel in Kanyakumari district, one of the worst hit, is slowly limping back to normalcy.
The dead have been buried and only five new bodies were recovered on Wednesday.
The local government hospital, which saw four doctors work round-the-clock past three days, is now filled with doctors and nurses. They have arrived from neighbouring districts and the Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital.
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The vans which brought in the dead with sickening regularity, stand idle in the hospital compound. There are food packets everywhere and people, huddled together in small groups, are eating peacefully.
Just across the road from the hospital, St. Mary's Higher Secondary School, converted into a refugee camp, is bustling with activity. Relief workers fill the big hall. They are distributing aid and handing out receipts for cash donations.
Two men from Trivandrum have brought two boxes full of lungies, towels and bed sheets. Two more from the same city have brought 120 loaves of bread. The Tamil Nadu Mercantile Bank has sent food for 3000 people.
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Government officials are there too -- distributing cash, rice and other essentials. Nadars of Thiruvettar drive in vans loaded with relief material.
Elsewhere in the town, UNICEF officials are helping build temporary toilets. Municipal corporation employees are spraying insecticides. The smell of chlorine, a welcome break from the stench of death.
Special buses are being run from Colachel to Nagercoil, the district headquarters. "When we needed the buses, they stopped the service. Now we don't need it, and they are running it," says an elderly man.
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The dead have been buried. The living are being fed. Now the state government needs to get its act together for more serious work -- debris left behind by Sunday's devastation need to be cleared. New houses need to be built. The fishermen need boats and fishing equipment to get back to their livelihood.
A lot needs to be done. The NGOs will vanish in a week. The volunteers will go back to their lives. It is the government that will have to see that Colachel, and many such towns and villages along the coast, get their lives back.
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