January 21, 2005  


New Disaster Relief Organization Formed at SLAC

By Ziba Mahdavi

Disaster Relief at SLAC (DRAS) was conceived on January 4, in response to the need to support members of the SLAC community to provide relief to communities devastated by the south Asian tsunami that occurred on December 26, 2004.

Kay Ganapathi (Photo by Diana Rogers)

This grassroots organization is structured to approve and raise funds for disaster relief projects that are coordinated by a member of the SLAC community. DRAS is an all-volunteer organization that will ensure that 100 percent of the funds collected for a given project will go to that specific project.

DRAS is not affiliated with SLAC or with Stanford University. Board members are Ziba Mahdavi (BSD), Barry Webb (HR), Teresa Troxel (SSRL), Vickee Flynn (CEF), and Nadine Wright (BSD). Volunteers are welcome to join this new organization.

A pilot project, Tamil Nadu Relief Project (see box), has been identified and is in the final stages of the DRAS approval process.

SLAC community members with other project ideas should contact Ziba Mahdavi (Ext. 4458, zibam@slac.stanford.edu). You may also visit the Web site at: http://www.draslac.org/


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.




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Last update Thursday January 20, 2005 by Emily Ball