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Tsunami disaster – countries in crisis

Eye-witness accounts of the disaster in India

© UNICEF India/2004
UNICEF staff member P.T. Sesharadri inspects water tanks being loaded onto trucks in Chennai.

CHENNAI, India, 28 December 2004 - The south of India has been gravely impacted by this weekend’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake and resulting deadly tsunamis, which have left nine south Asian countries in chaos and ruin.  It estimated that over four thousand people have been killed and that figure is certain to rise in the coming days as bodies of the victims continue to be found. Many of the victims were children.

The southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has been hit hardest by the tsunamis. Other Indian states affected by the tsunamis report no need for additional assistance at this time, although there are serious concerns for the Indian islands of Andaman and Nicobar.  These two island chains lie close to the epicentre of the quake, and communication has not been reliably established.

Relief camps have been established for the tens of thousands of survivors who have been displaced from their homes in the past two days. UNICEF offices in India are working around the clock to help survivors. In Delhi, UNICEF supplies have been procured to help those affected by the emergency.

UNICEF is supporting relief efforts led by the state and local authorities as well as the national government.  In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, UNICEF is providing hundreds of thousands of water purification tablets, 1600 community water tanks (500 litres each), 200,000 sachets of oral rehydration salts, medical supplies sufficient to serve 30 health centers, and 30,000 blankets. 

Trucks carrying these badly-needed water tanks began moving out on Monday, 27 December to the districts which were hit hardest.

“Ensuring that families who have moved into relief camps get clean drinking water is a top priority,” said UNICEF’s supply officer in Delhi, Mr. Kalesh Kumar. “That means getting water tanks into those areas as quickly as possible and supplying purification tablets as well as ORS packets. That will save more lives from being lost in this disaster, which is our number one job right now.” 

UNICEF India’s Chief of the water, environment and sanitation programme, Lisette Burgers, was on the ground near the city of Chennai to assess the situation. 

“The area worst affected is the strip of fishing villages where people live in on the edge of poverty. I have talked to mothers who are desperately searching for their children but cannot afford a bus ticket to visit nearby villages to look for them,” said Ms. Burgers. “There is no doubt that we will need to focus on water and hygiene, and I have seen many children who seem traumatized.”

UNICEF is working with its partner agencies and the government to bring much-needed assistance to the survivors of the disaster.




27 December 2004:
UNICEF India’s Chief of Water, Environment and Sanitation programme describes the devastation on the ground outside of Chennai, India

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