REPORT ON TSUNAMI RELIEF WORK – TOS, CHENNAI
SEQUENCE OF EVENTS
On December 26, 2004 a quake with an intensity of 9.0 on the Richter scale occurred in the ocean near the Indonesian town of Banda Aceh. The quake was felt in many countries across the region. The tsunami triggered by the quake destroyed coastal areas of Sumatra, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Southern India and the Maldives, besides other countries, including far off Somalia.
At Adyar, the International Convention was being inaugurated at the time the tsunami hit the coastline. Water from the river came in up to the coconut grove around the Buddhist Temple, besides damaging the wall near the river. Nine houses, in which a total of 12 employees lived, were damaged outside the T.S. There were however, no casualties. The river path, which was covered with debris, is being cleaned and is now returning to normal. About 700 to 750 persons from the local villages took shelter in the Olcott School for a few days. They have since returned to their respective villages.
The local TOS swung into action within an hour of the tsunami striking the coast. An appeal was made and donations started pouring in. Clothes, utensils, food grains, medicines and money were received from individuals. They were received at The Theosophical Society. Volunteers from the Boy Scout Movement and local colleges were enlisted to sort the items, classify them and distribute them. The first lot was distributed with the help of these volunteers. Soon the volumes started to increase geometrically and the help of NGO groups became necessary. Consignments of clothes, medicines, medical disposables and utensils were dispatched to coastal districts in Tamilnadu like Cuddalore, Sirkazhi and Nagapattinam, which were the worst affected. About two tons of food grains, mainly rice, was transported to these places. A consignment of relief material was also flown in to the Andamans. In all, about 125 children of the Olcott Memorial School were affected by the disaster. Books and school uniforms were distributed among the children who were not helped by the government scheme.
PLANS FOR REHABILITATION
The relief phase is slowly giving way to the rehabilitation phase. Potable water in the coastal districts is likely to be a problem for about 18 months. A Reverse Osmosis plant for the Akkaraipetti village, near Nagapattinam, in coastal Tamilnadu is being donated with the facilitation of the TOS. Vocational training centers, wherein the TOS can work with NGOs to re-train villagers in areas other than fishing are being considered.
The Hindu of January 8, 2005 in an report entitled, ‘Contributions Galore for Tsunami Victims’, says, “The volunteers of Theosophical Order of Service, a non-governmental organization distributed provisions, medicines and textbooks to places, including Chennai and Cuddalore.”
OUR VITAL MESSAGE
The TOS in Chennai is keenly aware of the need to do a better job of making Theosophy and the Theosophical Society known in the world. The tsunami relief efforts are demonstrating how the Society members actively work to live out their world view. Goodwill is being generated in the community and constructive links forged with NGOs, companies and government departments.
The response of TS, TOS members and sympathisers all over the world to this human tragedy is an indication of how committed they are to the application of our vital message. We thank all who have sent money to the International Treasurer at Adyar to support the relief effort so far. We have a long way to go but are greatly encouraged by the messages of concern coming in from around the world.