Fear of disaster forces fishermen to move there from their houses for safety

Fear of natural disaster has forced a majority of fishermen of Pillaichavady, Periya Kalapet and Chinna Kalapet to move to the tsunami rehabilitation housing colony from their houses along the coastline in Kalapet.

Following destruction by cyclone ‘Thane' and the tsunami alert issued on Wednesday, many people decided to move from their houses along the coast.

The housing colony which looked deserted six months ago now is now buzzing with activity with four grocery stores, a beauty parlour, dish antennas on terrace of houses, a water agencyand children returning from school.

The housing colony in Kalapet was inaugurated in February 2011 by Union Home Minister P. Chindambaram. In September 2011, The Hindu reported that the houses had not been occupied as fishermen were yet to receive title deeds and houses had not been given power connection.

Speaking to The Hindu, Varadaraj, a fisherman from Pillaichavady who now lives in the housing colony, said around 250 families moved into these houses after ‘Thane' wreaked havoc in their village. In February, they received the title deeds and decided to move in. On Wednesday, another 50 families from Pillaichavady and 70 to 80 families from other villages moved into the colony.

As Pillaichavady fishing village is closest to the shore, most of the villagers have left. Around 80 per cent of the villagers have left Periya Kalapet and Chinna Kalapet. Only fishermen from Ganapathichettikulam have opted to stay where they are, Varadaraj said.

“Even though it is struggle for us to go to the sea every morning, we have decided that our family's safety is more important. Every morning, we have to leave by 3 a.m. to get to the shore and take our boats out. We have all left our nets and boats on the beach and every morning we leave praying that everything remains safe,” according to another fishermen S. Ravi.

As children do not have a government school nearby, there are around 10 autorickshaws that take them to school. If the auto driver is late, a large number of children end up late at school, said Neervizhi, a housewife.

Around 90 per cent of the houses that were allotted to people from Pillaichavady have been occupied. Most of the people have had to make modifications worth around Rs. 1 lakh to their houses to make it habitable, Ravi said.

One of the most important changes that many families have made is shifting the bathrooms outside. Earlier, toilets were attached to the hall, he said.

Flooring is another thing that many have changed. Many families have replaced the cement flooring with tiles. For drinking water they are forced to go to their villages and carry back cans, as water is not potable, according to Prabhavati, another former resident of Pillaichavady.

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