|Tamil Nadu Relief Project
By Teresa Troxel
The 8.9 Richter scale earthquake that struck
Indonesia at about 6:30 a.m. India time, generated the south
Asian tsunami of December 26, 2004, that struck the Indian coast
just north of Sri Lanka at about 9:00 a.m. There were six to
eight tidal waves separated by 10 to 20 minutes that struck the
port city of Chennai (Madras), the capital of the state of Tamil
Nadu, and the surrounding villages. The saltwater waves washed
over the beaches and rushed up two rivers, one in the middle of
Chennai and one toward its southern border, and three canals
that interconnect the rivers. Half of the homes along the coast
in Chennai and almost all the homes in the surrounding areas
were destroyed and 8,000 lives were lost.
Kausalya (Kay) Ganapathi (MD) was visiting her
family in Chennai and was an eyewitness to the tragedy. She felt
the earthquake which lasted about five minutes. Later, she and
her family left for a planned coastal excursion with the
intention of visiting the temple at Pondicherry, a French
colonial town to the south.
While driving down the coast they began to
experience waves of people running and screaming. They stopped
before crossing one of the canals and decided to return home.
The bridge they had been about to cross was destroyed by an
oncoming rush of tidal waves. While crossing the broad river to
the south of the city, they found the water was within a foot of
the bridge pavement as another wave rushed onshore up into the
river delta where thousands lived.
After returning to the family home, Ganapathi,
along with her family, their friends and neighbors began relief
efforts for the victims. They prepared and distributed 300
packets of food the first day. Subsequently they bought food,
sheets and clothing using their own personal resources, and made
many trips to the devastated areas to distribute them.
Since returning to the Bay Area, Ganapathi has
committed herself to raising funds for the unfortunate people
who have been devastated, losing everything. On the day of her
return to SLAC, Ganapathiís colleagues began to help her
organize a Tamil Nadu Relief Project, and DRAS was founded to
aid her and other disaster victims.