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Cyclone Gaja: the aftermath

Livelihood of fishermen goes for a toss

‘The impact has been deadlier than the 2004 tsunami aftermath’

November 18, 2018 10:46 pm | Updated 10:46 pm IST - Tiruchi

Damaged fibre boats seen at Eripurakkarai coastal village near Adhiramapattinam in Thanjavur district on Sunday.

Damaged fibre boats seen at Eripurakkarai coastal village near Adhiramapattinam in Thanjavur district on Sunday.

A couple of fibre boats lie upside down with their outboard motors completely smashed. One boat is found thrown off to a distance of half a kilometre from the docked location.

There are scores of boats in similar positions. And not to speak of fishing nets that have got entangled on the shore. The scene at coastal Eripurakkarai fishing village adjoining Adhiramapattinam in Thanjavur district presents a grim picture post Cyclone Gaja. The impact is deadlier than that of the 2004 Tsunami, says the fishermen.

Staring at one of the badly-damaged fibre boats, G. Panneerselvam, a fisherman of the coastal village, says “we have lost our livelihood”. Same is the predicament of other fishermen of Eripurakkarai as well. The village is still reeling under the impact of the devastation caused by the heavy winds gusting up to 120 kilometres.

The muddy road adjoining a channel leading to the sea has a row of fibre boats which, the fishermen say, have become unfit for fishing. The canopy above a structure where fishermen dry their nets was blown off in the strong winds accompanied by heavy downpour.

Life in Eripurakkarai, which was abuzz with fishing activity until Gaja struck in the early hours on November 16, has come to a standstill. All the 90-odd fibre boats anchored at the channel and close by have suffered extensive damage and become unfit for use any longer, says K.P. Raja, 38, president of Fishermen Cooperative Society of Eripurakkarai.

“I have never seen a cyclone till now. Our lives have turned upside down in a matter of just three hours. The maximum havoc was unleashed between 3.30 a.m. and 5.00 a.m. when Gaja hit with the maximum force,” says Mr. Panneerselvam with a sense of despair.

It was a panic situation as heavy winds damaged several thatched huts and tiles of dwellings, recalls Rajasekhar, another fishermen. Fishermen of the 1,000 families at Eripurakkarai say they only use fibre boats for fishing and go up to 10-11 nautical miles from the shore and return around 10 a.m. after setting out in the early hours. There was no damage of this magnitude at Eripurakkarai when the deadly tsunami struck the coastal districts in December 2004, recounts Mr. Rajasekhar.

The damage had been equally extensive in adjoining fishing villages like Gandhi Nagar, Keezhathottam and Kollukaadu.

With their livelihood in stake, fishermen are now looking up to the government to provide them immediate relief and financial assistance to replace the damaged boats and fishing nets at the earliest.

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