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Just 18 km from Sri Lanka, but spared by tsunami

By Ganesh Nadar in Rameshwaram
Last updated on: January 12, 2005 21:06 IST
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Dhanushkodi is at the eastern end of Rameswaram island. From there it is only 18 km to Thalaimannar in Sri Lanka. Fishermen say that there is a place in the ocean near Dhanushkodi from where you can see the lights from both India and Sri Lanka at night.

Dhanushkodi was not hit by the tsunami. Water rose a little and then went back. Like in Tuticorin, here, too, the fishermen are thanking Sri Lanka for having saved them.

However, the people are scared. They have read in the papers that the tremors have not stopped. For a little over a week, most fishermen have not ventured into the sea. Their livelihood has been hit. The few who did go to the sea are faced with another problem. They have not been able to sell their catch. The public is scared that the fish may carry disease, as there are so much dirt and dead bodies in the ocean.

Meanwhile, the families are hoping that the relief will reach them. Silvai, a 32-year-old fisherman, whose net was damaged by the waves, said the womenfolk of the village had gone to get the 60 kg of rice the government had announced as part of relief measures.

The Rameshwaram tahsildhar has decided to distribute the free rice from ration shops to ensure that people don't crowd at one place. In Thangachimadam, 5 km from Rameshwaram, over 500 people were waiting for the rice at a ration shop.

So far only 30 families have got the 60 kg rice. The rest will get it later.

In Mudiveerapatinam, north of Ramanathapuram town, the fishermen community is facing a problem in claiming the relief. Karthick, a fisherman, said the ration cards of the villagers did not bear the stamp proclaiming they were from the fishing community. With the government insisting that only fishermen are entitled to relief, Karthick and his villagers fear they will not get any of it.

The fishermen in the area, like other areas, have not ventured into the sea for a week. On Monday, they decided to go fishing. However, they didn't have enough nets. Most of them lost their nets on December 26, when they were some 7 km into the sea from the shore and were hit by the waves, though not fatally.

In Thiruppalaikudi village, which has more than 300 boats, Sahool Hameed, a 55-year-old fisherman, lost 10 nets. Each net had cost him Rs 1,000. Now, he is hoping the government will replace them.

Thondi, another big fishing village, also faces a problem similar to that in Mudiveerapatinam. Habib Mohammad, a fisherman, said only a sixth of the village population had the stamp on the ration cards needed to obtain relief. So relief is not reaching the majority.

Tomorrow: The famous Vedaranyam bird sanctuary and Nagapattinam, where the biggest peacetime rehabilitation operation since Independence is on.

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Ganesh Nadar in Rameshwaram