While most regions affected by the tsunami have recovered and set right the damage that the killer tide caused, one hamlet on East Coast Road still stands a testimony to the chilling aftermath of December 26, 2004.
The hamlet, which is deserted, has dilapidated houses, abandoned temples, a damaged school, a completely dry overhead water tank. A ghost town tag is what the place has got after the 330 families vacated the place.
Karikattu Kuppam in Muttukadu 32 km from Chennai was a bustling fishing hamlet which the former residents claim to be a 150-year-old settlement.
All that changed after the tsunami, which left four people, including two children dead, severely damaged property and left the population of 1,320 homeless.
Rehabilitation work by voluntary organisations and the State government ensued in the following years and new homes were provided to the affected families two km away as they were reluctant to return to the original site.
“As we were horrified, we simply refused to return to the kuppam which had close to 280 houses. Some of them were spared in the tsunami,” said S. Prabharakaran, a fisherman. “The government primary school where more than 300 children of the hamlet studied was closed down. The Sangothi Amman temple and the Karumari Amman temple here were abandoned and annual temple fests never took place after that. Thereafter, ghost stories about the kuppam started to surface,” said the third-generation resident of Karikattu Kuppam.
Over five years have passed after the tsunami but the damage is visible in sections of the deserted hamlet. Dried coconut trees, old clothes, and footwear scattered all around, the primary school with classrooms and blackboards, a hall where fishermen used to meet, a broken fishing boat, damaged houses and piles of debris remain, giving the place a haunted look.
Former residents said that the kuppam that remain uninhabited after the tsunami was recently brought by two private parties.
“The former residents have now started demolishing their dilapidated houses and taking away whatever is worth from the debris,” said Desammal who had come along with her husband Ramesh recently to collect the leftovers from her mother's abandoned house at the kuppam.
Though the land may be razed to make way for new structures, it would take years for the traces of that ill-fated December morning to fade out.