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Pall of gloom descends over fishing hamlets

By Swahilya

CHENNAI, DEC. 27. A day after the tsunami hit Chennai, destruction and gloom prevailed over the city's northern fringes from Royapuram and Tondiarpet to Tiruvottriyur and Ennore.

The fishing hamlets of Royapuram are struggling to shake themselves from the morbid experience. Funeral processions were seen throughout the day and the shamianas erected in front of houses showed that the families were mourning a close kin lost. In the Tiruvottriyur cremation ground, the family of a girl child was getting ready for the funeral rites, even as her father was admitted to the intensive care unit of a nearby hospital.

In the Royapuram fishing harbour where nature's fury caused the maximum damage to property, fibreglass boats, catamarans and ships were seen broken on the shore. The platform of the wharf had been chipped off in several places as the water spurted through the holes from beneath with gigantic force.

Fishermen looked dazed as several of their boats had crashed, grounded or just disappeared into the Bay of Bengal. In the harbour where the water moved inland with a great force for a distance of 300 metres, people who tried to rescue the boats perished.

"It will take us two more days to assess the damage to our boats and how many are missing," said P. Kuppusamy, president of the Motor Boat Owners Association.

V. Karunanidhi, president of the Motor Boat Fishermen Association, and S. Venugopal, former MLA, questioned why North Chennai continued to be neglected even in the wake of the tsunami.

"In south Chennai, it is the case of a few cars lost. Here it is the security of hundreds of fishing boats, motor boats and catamarans costing several lakhs of rupees each and are the main source of livelihood of fishermen that are gone forever."

Senthil Kumar, a Madras University student, and his friend, Ashok Kumar from the Ennore creek, were shocked by the sight of the body of their friend Ram from Trishnakuppam. His brother swooned at the sight. Ashok Kumar said: "He was fishing near the Ennore Creek and his body was found in Royapuram."

Operation resumed

Capt. K. Balachandran, Director, Ennore Port, said that the port's knowledge of tsunami action and effects helped them remain alert. The port resumed cargo operation today.

C. Sylendra Babu, Joint Commissioner of Police, North Chennai, inspected rescue operations at the Fishing Harbour. Forty bodies were recovered from the North Chennai coastal area, he said.

A fire broke out amid the condemned thatches of the huts destroyed in the tidal activity. It was soon put off by onlookers and two fire tenders stationed nearby.

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