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Deaths Higher Than Reported in Tamil Nadu, India

Tsunami Death toll much higher than reported in Tamil Nadu, India

Christian World Service (CWS) partners in Tamil Nadu are concerned that poor communities will miss out on much needed support as the tsunami death toll is under-reported by the Indian government.

“We are recording losses village by village,” said Jesu Rethinam of Neythal, a group funded by New Zealand aid and development agency, CWS. “We know the death toll is much higher than government figures.”

Ms Rethinam told CWS projects coordinator, Elizabeth Mackie that registering bodies was a critical need. “People will be eligible for some form of support if they have been widowed or have lost family members so it is crucial to make sure actual losses are officially registered,” explains Elizabeth Mackie. “These are extremely poor communities and the loss of the main income earner will leave families in unimaginable hardship”.

Neythal staff are still removing bodies, more than 10 days after the deadly waves struck poor fishing villages along the coastline of Tamil Nadu, South Asia.

Neythal is also distributing basic necessities such as clothing and cooking utensils, much of it donated by local people. They expect people will be relying on food rations for 2-3 months at least.

Ms Rethinam is working 4am to 11pm each day as her organisation helps the worst affected villages. “I just can’t keep awake, “ she told CWS.

Neythal lost two young women staff members and a young man was incredibly lucky to escape with his life. He remains in a traumatised state. Other staff members lost everything but the clothes they were wearing. They continue to work day after day to help those in need – wearing the same dress for over 10 days.

The full impact on the fishing communities of Tamil Nadu may never be known. It will take decades for people to recover. CWS has sent an initial grant of $5000, has pledged a further $40,000 immediately and will give ongoing assistance once the local people identify their most pressing needs.

Donations to the appeal can be made on 0800 74 73 72

Christian World Service is the Development, Justice and Aid Agency of the Conference of Churches in Aotearoa New Zealand

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