Thursday, January 06, 2005

First hand account of the tryst with the fifth (last) Tsunami of 26th. - Chennai

Live account of Tsunami in Chennai by a Bitsian of 75 batch - Jacob Mani.

6.00a.m: Ziv(my dog) and I set out for the routine stroll to the
beachside at Injambakkam where we now live ; a quiet picture perfect sea facing enclave 500mts.away from the beach.On reaching the road
parallel to the beach barely a 50 mts. away from the shore; we cut
right and proceed along the parallel road from where you can watch
the sun rise.
6.30a.m:The panchayat borewell operator switches on the motor which
feeds the overhead tanks supplying water to the village.There are
loud sparks of a short circuit and I shout at him to put of the motor and rush to inform the local councillor. He sets briskly off on his cycle .Ziv sits down and begins a lazy scratch looking around
for unsuspecting morning amblers who could be the fresh victim of his intimidating pounces. " Little did we realise that at that precise instant, more than 2000kms. away Sumatra was Rocking at no.9.0 and the stage was being set for the catyclismic disaster barely 2 and a half hours away.
6.45a.m: We begin the jerky(Ziv tugging at the chain),uneventful walk back home around 400 meters away. The red sun has risen and there is nothing about the sea that seems unusual.The next half an hour is spent with the kids and Shobha on the "Thinnai"(open balcony)gazing at the sea and wrapping up the small details for the day trip to Pondicherry which is a 2 hour drive along the scenic East Coast Road(ECR).planned for 8.30a.m.
8.40a.m: We set off by taking the ECR road ;barely 100mts from my
place and reach a comfortable speed allowing the greenery on either
sides of the road to slowly seep in.By 9.00a.m we had crossed the
sleeply fishing hamlets of Panayur,and were entering Muttukadu when
Shobha announces that the iron box may be on. Reluctantly we take the next U-Turn and head back home to put off the errant iron before
restarting the trip.
9.20a.m: On entering the road leading to our house we were greeted by the chaotic cries of women and children running helter skelter. Rumours were rife that the electrical lines in the area were exploding, some said the sea was rising and we could sea a seaswell
of men women and children scampering to the main road holding on to
pots, pans, stoves, TV's and whatever could be salvaged. By this time the TV's and radios are announcing that the first Tidal waves had sturck Marina and various parts of the Southern coastal villages and other countries.
9.30 a.m:-10.40a.m: I dig up my binoculars and world band radio and
tune on to the BBC and the local news .The next hour was a time
warp with confused reports pouring on the damage caused by the
Tsunami's in Indonesia, Srilanka , Andamans and other coastal towns.
The AIR Chennai station had managed to rope in certain obsolete
officials from the met depearment who kept giving misguided advice
that the effect was over and the seas were rapidly receding. Coming
from the mouth of so called guardians of the weather domains added to my share of confidence. So I put on my BITS Think!cap and without
much thought about what lay ahead , I decide to survey the sea from
the shore. With the binocs in hand I head for the shore exuding much
confidence fuelled by the encouraging reports on A.I.R ;reassuring
the panic striken people whom I came across that the worst was over .
10.50 a.m: I am at the edge of the sea sitting on a parapet wall
since the waves have crossed the sand bars and along with a few
distraught local fishermen we survey the destruction of several
catamarans and small fishing boats piled on to the edge of the water
logged retaining walls of private beach side properties.I spent a few poignant moments explaining to the few fishermen that the quake in Sumatra while inducing a few high ocean waves was nothing more than a spent force.
In a flash the sea picked up furry and a huge wall of waves around 2
meters high started to rush in while the last words on assurances
floated away.At 46 I am not much of a runner and a not fully restored
shoulder ,the result of an accident of over ten years flashed across
my mind along with helplessness, and prmitive instincts of survival.I ran as fast as my legs could carry me and 50 meters away was this 5feet ,500meters long wall which demarcates the private section of the beach. Allthe other fishermen were running and I luckily fouund a lamp post some 100meterrs along the wall which propped me to scale the wall and soot for safety.Meanwhile the rushing sea watrer smashed across a few walls and flattened it like a deck of cards while continuing this furious chase around the walls and rushed inland a further 100meters before making an abrupt retreat back to where it had started. I turned around and realised that I was spared and so were all the others who made a run for their lives.
11.00a.m: Back home with Shobha ,the kids and a few villagers.
Totally out of breath I curse the misguided bravado induced by the
ignorance of so called experts from the mets. office on A.I.R.We stay on while the villagers are evacuvating in droves.We hope the worst is over.

1.30 p.m: Jose calls in from Kerala and I give him a seven minute
narrative on the chain of events from my second floor room
overlooking the sea while all appears quiet and calm.However by that
time thousands had perished and lacs uprooted and devastated.There is no power and the charge on the cell phone has run out.

First hand account of the tryst with the fifth (last) Tsunami of 26th.

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