The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rebuild balm on ravaged land

Nagapattinam, Dec. 22: A sinewy hand arches back, then the hammer comes crashing down.

Thwack. One more nail has been driven into the wood. One among the hundreds.

A little distance away, a low wave buries itself in the beach sand, the sound of the sea almost drowned by the clamour of human voices and the thump of hammer on wood.

Nagapattinam is on the “road to recovery”, said district collector J. Radhakrishnan. “Provided, of course, we are not struck by another cyclone.”

The fear of another elemental battering is there at the back of the mind of every resident of this tsunami-devastated Tamil Nadu district, but life has moved on. Come December 26, they will remember their dead ' men, women and children swallowed by a monstrous sea ' but the sense of helplessness that had crept in a year back has gone. Thanks to the “rebuilding” that is on.

The massive wreckage of destroyed boats and twisted steel and concrete that once lined the coast from the port area to the nearby fishing hamlets of Keechankuppam and Akkaraipettai, have been cleared. The boatyard close to the port now teems with carpenters at their craft, repairing damaged mechanised boats or building new ones.

Battered by the tsunami, the ancient port town is slowly getting back to shape, with Rs 44.56 crore being spent on relaying roads and repairing bridges.

More than its old lighthouse, the new pride of Nagapattinam will be the 810-metre-long and 33.1-metre-high bridge across the backwaters connecting Keechankuppam with Akkaraipettai.

The Rs 10.8-crore bridge is nearing completion. “We wanted to open it on December 26 itself,” Radhakrishnan said. But the recent floods and storms came in the way. “Now the opening is scheduled on the Tamil festival Pongal (in the second week of January).”

To help the tsunami victims put behind their trauma, the site of the mass burial here has been turned into a busy utility space, with a large fish auction centre and a fish-drying yard coming up.

A home for the orphans, with a built-up area of 26,000 square feet and named Annai Sathya Nilayam after chief minister Jayalalithaa’s mother, is getting finishing touches.

The more challenging part of the construction boom was the 17,461 permanent houses planned for fishermen who lost their homes to the marauding sea. They are nearly complete. Each measures 325 square feet and costs Rs 1.50 lakh. The government has provided land free of cost.

As many as 45 organisations are involved in this gigantic effort. Among them are the Ramakrishna Mission, the Mata Amrityanandamayi Math and the Tata Relief Committee.

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