With tears in their eyes, family members on Saturday remembered those swallowed by the deadly tsunami on the Tamil Nadu coast five years ago that left over 8000 dead. Candlelight processions and ceremonies to offer prayers to the deceased were held all over the state.
The giant waves triggered by undersea tremors in Indonesia had caused the tsunami, one of India's biggest post-Independence natural calamities, in terms of the number of lives lost and the magnitude of the disaster.
Even before the fishermen residing along the sea and morning walkers on the black Sunday in Chennai could realise what was happening, the gushing sea had turned the beach into a watery grave.
The government has pumped in crores of rupees towards rehabilitation of the affected, with many non-governmental organisations also chipping in. Nagapattinam was one of the districts worst-hit by the killer waves; 6000 people were killed and over a lakh people were rendered homeless. Painful memories of the tsunami still linger here, but people have moved on.
The district today is bustling with activity and the economy thriving with gainful employment for the youth. There is a sea change in the livelihood, as well as lifestyle of the people. Large-scale employment opportunities have been generated for the youth of the district in both organised and unorganised sectors.
Children of tsunami-hit areas now have access to high quality English medium education, which was absent earlier, while the youth have taken up entrepreneurial ventures. The fishing community, the worst-hit, are a happy lot with their own fibreglass boats and other fishing equipment.
More than 19,000 families have been provided with permanent houses. According to NGO volunteers engaged in rehabilitation of the affected, the people of the area did not attach much importance to education earlier. Most children dropped out from schools to take up fishing, but post-tsunami the situation has changed. Lured by the facilities provided by the schools, the children are happily attending schools, they said.
Nearly 40 per cent of the women of tsunami-hit areas have become entrepreneurs and are making products like footwear, leather articles, pickles and coir products. Many other women have embarked on modern fish marketing activities, tailoring, mobile canteens, handicrafts making and even driving and masonry, NGO sources said.