Delta Diaries: Cyclone Gaja rendered homeless even those with tiled-roofs

Nagapattinam / Tiruvarur: Food, shelter and clothing have always been taught as the three basic necessities of life. A disaster like Cyclone Gaja destroys them all in no time.

The people of the Gaja-hit Cauvery delta region are preparing for a ‘resurrection’ after losing everything to the most aggressive cyclone of recent years. This News Today correspondent walked the streets of several villages in Nagapattinam and Tiruvarur districts that were some of the worst affected spots during the cyclone. At the time, he found village Panjanathikulam, near Vedaranyam, in Nagapattinam district, was almost wiped out completely.

“There are totally 150 families in our village. All these houses are either huts or tiled-roof buildings. None of them could withstand the winds generated by Gaja during landfall,” said Sakthivel, a septuagenarian from the village.

He said, “Until last week, we were got shelter in the relief camp set up in the elementary school of the area. Yesterday, we were asked to vacate the camp as the government wants to resume classes in schools. As of now, we have no place to reside in.”

The people of Panjanathikulam are sharing houses that are less affected by the cyclone. “Though we are okay with co-existing, this cannot be a permanent solution for us. Soon, we have to find a way to reconstruct our houses,” Sakthivel added.

According to him, most of them have been living for decades in the village and do not have proper registration for their lands. “So, the government will not help us rebuild our homes,” he said.

In a similar scenario, people of Katchanam, another hamlet, near Tiruthuraipoondi, Tiruvarur district, suffer without shelter. “We were asked to move out of the camps almost a week ago. Most of the people without a roof over their head, have temporarily shifted to other villages, mostly to their relatives’ homes,” said Parthiban, a volunteer who belongs to the area.

Katchanam had been home to 120 families most of whom were living in thatched-roof houses. “Since the demand for building materials of our houses have gone up, so have the prices. The normal cost of a 10×20 feet house would be around Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 for the roof alone. But, now it has doubled and costs around Rs 10,000,” Parthiban said.

Parthiban has been trying to receive funds to reconstruct as many damaged houses as possible. “Since most of our friends have already contributed so much for the relief works, it has become very difficult for me to ask them again and again for help. And, this reconstruction alone would cost around Rs 4 lakh for the whole village. So, we are looking up for bigger sponsors,” he explained.

To provide temporary relief, some of the damaged thatched roofs have been covered with tarpaulins in many houses.

“Again, the problem here is the price of tarpaulins that has seen a hike. A pack of seven, 15×18 tarpaulin would usually cost around Rs 7,000 but now has gone up to Rs 12,000. Even if we buy with the available funds, it would only be a temporary measure. We can save the funds for buying materials for reconstruction,” says Parthiban wisely.

Volunteers like Parthiban are caught in a dilemma. “If we wait to raise funds for the total reconstruction of the village houses, it might take a couple of weeks. In that case, if we take up temporary measures with the existing funds, it is going to be waste of money that would again impact what we save for rehabilitation of the area,” he explained.

Parthiban can be reached at 9087909088.

Santhosh Mathevan