The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Scouring bodies on beach for lost parents

Hyderabad, Dec. 29: Meghna Rajasekhar is 14 and a survivor.

When she was getting ready on Sunday morning for 'fishing and collecting some butterflies and insects for my zoological collections', she never thought she would spend the next two days and nights on a beach in Car Nicobar among countless dead and dying.

'I was in the kitchen packing some food for my adventure. Daddy had just woken up and asked me for coffee,' said the sole surviving member of air force officer Rajasekhar's family.

'I don't know what happened. When I turned around to get the coffee, I could not see the kitchen. When I looked back in shock, I could not find daddy.'

Rajasekhar, 43, mother Sridhari, 38, and brother Akash, 8, were all washed away when the tsunamis struck the air force officers' colony near the beach at Car Nicobar.

'I ran after the wave to see whether I could reach any of them. But it was impossible. There was no one in sight,' Meghna said.

The entire Indian Air Force base at Car Nicobar was destroyed. 'Three to four pilotless aircraft were swept away like small boats,' said Meghna, who clung to a tree before another giant wave could suck her into the sea.

Their house was razed to the ground. 'All the 20-odd houses in the colony were destroyed.'

Over the next two days, before she was rescued by residents and a Red Cross relief team, Meghna checked each corpse on the beach in search of her family. Then she remembers waking up in a makeshift hospital on the island on Tuesday morning.

The relief officials handed her over last night to air force officials in Chennai, to where she was airlifted.

Rajasekhar's colleague Meher Baba brought Meghna home to Hyderabad the same day. Her relatives from Khammam were at the airport to take charge of the teenager.

Meghna is still in shock and unable to talk freely. She cannot forget that she and her friends were planning to come to Hyderabad for new year celebrations. 'Daddy had promised to buy me a nice scooter to run around the island.'

She recalled most of the ground staff and air force officers at the base trying to save lives. 'But I could see that none was spared by the tsunami, which sucked them in and bowled them over into rough waters.'

A senior air force official in Hyderabad said nearly 16 families were located at the base, including those of five pilots and ground staff. 'About 10 bodies have been identified. Twelve are still on the missing list,' he said.

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