Tsunami Terror in Tamil Nadu

2004-12-27
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A Tibetan woman in the Indian coastal town of Kanya Kumari has described to RFA her terror when the tsunami, which killed tens of thousands around the rim of the Indian Ocean, hit her market town.

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Map of the Indian Ocean showing countries most affected by the recent earthquake and tsunami. Image: Wikipedia/RFA

"At 10:30 in the morning the wave hit our area so hard. The waves were so big," trader Jampa Dechen told RFA's Tibetan service.

"Kunchok Khyen [Oh God!], when this wave came it was extremely scary. It was so big...I have seen such things in the movies. I have never seen such things in my life," she said.

Dechen said she then had to wait for news of her loved ones. "When I got home I was told that my Mom and others had gone to the hospital. I thought that I won't see them any more. So I began to cry."

"We will face financial difficulties."

The traders had rushed desperately to save their livelihoods, packing up their stored goods to save them from the rising waters, she said.

"Our market place was engulfed with water. So we began to pack our goods. One of the ladies, Achu Tshomo sprinkled some [Tibetan holy grains believed to avert harm] and the water receded. We packed our goods and went quickly to our room. We had so much trouble getting an auto rickshaw."

“Kunchok Khyen [Oh God!] when this wave came it was extremely scary. It was so big… I have never seen such things in my life.”

Thousands died along India's coastal region's when the massive sea-surges, caused by an undersea earthquake in the Indian Ocean, hit. The wave is thought to have reached heights of 30 meters and 500 miles per hour in some places.

Tamil Nadu had the largest number of victims. The disaster is the biggest to hit India since the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, residents said.

Since 1959, about 100,000 Tibetan have fled Chinese rule in the Himalayan region. A large proportion of them have become traders and settled in the southernmost eastern coast of India.

They sell mostly garments and textiles, travelling all over India to conduct their business. The Tibetan settlements were created with the support of the Indian government.

Dechen said she feared her livelihood had suffered a major blow. "Usually business is quite good here. But now because of this water I don't think that we will have any business," she said.

"Business should be good for another two weeks until Swami Ayapa pays his annual visit. But he will not come this time due to this water. We will face financial difficulties," she said.

Listen in Tibetan to Jampa Dechen's Account

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CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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