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Wednesday, Feb 16, 2005

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Jessie's story

By Aarti Dhar

CAMPBELL BAY (GREAT NICOBAR), FEB. 15. Jessie preferred to stay in the jungles than fly with men in a helicopter. The 25-year-old was rescued 45 days after the tsunami hit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on December 26. She said she could have sought help from the Indian Air Force helicopters on two occasions but hid herself in the jungles of Philopanja, mortified. The cynosure of all eyes, she was visibly uncomfortable with the attention she received at the Dormitory Relief Camp here.

The Union Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, met Jessie during his three-day visit to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Talking to reporters and camerapersons in the Nicobarese language, Jessie said she had fled from her village to escape the waves but lost her way. She made several attempts to reach her village but failed, and when she did reach there after several days, the village had been evacuated.

``When I saw my village was empty, I climbed up a tree to save myself from wild animals and snakes. I survived on wild fruit like berries and drank water from a stream,'' she said.

It was on February 9 that a former resident of the village, Michael Solomon, reached the village on his dinghy and spotted her. Mr. Solomon brought her here and got her admitted to a health centre. She was suffering from abdominal pain and skin infections due to insect bites. Jessie, who lost her husband to the waves, was discharged on February 12 and is now in a rehabilitation camp.

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