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Shock sinks fishing village

Thazhanguda (Tamil Nadu), Dec. 27 (Reuters): She survived the deadly tsunami that hit India's southern coast at the weekend ' but Anjalakshi hardly considers herself lucky.

Her young daughter is still missing more than 24 hours later and her fisherman husband and son who went out to sea on Sunday morning have yet to return.

'I have nowhere to go. Why did I survive this' she cried, sitting on her haunches outside her two-room home in Thazhanguda, a small fishing village in Tamil Nadu, which bore the brunt of the devastation. 'My house is full of water and there is no one to help me.'

Anjalakshi is one of about 2,000 people in the small coastal village still sunk in shock after the death and devastation unleashed by the wave that was triggered by the world's biggest earthquake in 40 years off the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

'It was like a wall of water, rising almost as high as the coconut palms on the beach,' said Shashi Kumar, a 23-year-old fisherman. 'It was all over in half an hour.'

More than 24 hours later, the nightmare hasn't ended in Thazhanguda, 170 km south of Chennai, and where the tsunami flattened dozens of houses and killed about 60 people, mainly women and children.

Signs of death and destruction from those 30 minutes are all over the village.

The waves swept more than a mile beyond the beach and washed away everything in their path, flattening brick houses, dragging along bicycles, small fishing boats and fishing nets and flooding concrete homes and rice paddies.

'The men ran or held on to trees and walls for dear life,' said M. Rajani, another fisherman. 'The women and children were no match for the sea.'

Most of the dead in Tamil Nadu have already been buried. But women who survived wailed 'akka, akka' (sister, sister) inconsolably over the bodies of a mother and a daughter lying in a single glass casket at a local healthcare centre.

The daughter's body had to be placed near her mother's feet in the sole coffin at the hospital that could preserve bodies at low temperatures, villagers said.

Women began wailing loudly as an ambulance brought in the body of a girl, the daughter of one of the mourners.

The women became hysterical as the father carried her body out of the van. 'Anasuya, Anasuya,' a woman wailed. 'Talk to me, talk to me, it's your mother,' she cried, hugging the sand and weed covered body. The father, too, broke down.

Numb with grief, survivors packed their few utensils into a cloth and carried them to safety. Others used plastic buckets and mugs to scoop out water from their homes.

Television stations said relatives of the dead would receive Rs 100,000 each in compensation.

Fisherman Rajani said he was afraid of the sea now, although three or four boats could be seen edging back to sea through the tide.

'I don't know when I can sum up the courage to go back fishing. This was like nothing I've seen before,' Rajani said.

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