Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Update from Dr. Gopalakrishnan

Update from Dr. Gopalakrishnan of India Medical Association

The damage to life and property is immense in Nagapattinam district along the central coast of Tamilnadu, a state in Southern India. The official death toll is said to be 5,000 but Dr. G. estimates it to be at least five times higher. Dr. G. and his colleagues in
India Medical Association have been very active in this area.

For now, they have categorized the victims in to three categories.
Category I : All those who were very close to the coast ( within a Kilometer ) and have lost their homes,
family members and may have sustained life-threatening injuries.
Category II : All those who were within the reach of the waves but not necessarily directly hit by the waves.
They have mostly sustained property damage, injuries and a few fatalities.
Category III : All those who were not affected by the water at all but suffer loss of power, proper sanitation,
lack of proper drinking water ( due to contamination of natural water sources by sea water )
and are vulnerable to communicable diseases caused by rotting dead bodies.

Dr. G. mentioned that all three categories are considered 'affected' by the disaster but the priority is
with Category I followed by Category II and finally Category III. This is to help in provision of relief and
essential supplies as the needs of the various categories vary and the criticality of the need also varies.
Category III victims and Category II victims have been housed in shelters. Most Category I survivors have
also been housed in shelters but some Category I survivors are refusing to be re-located as they are staying
on in the hope of recovering missing members of their families. All efforts are being done to help them
locate their family members and to persuade them to relative safety in the shelters.

Dr. G. mentioned that Nagapattinam district was the worst-hit in the disaster but has not yet received
sufficient amount of aid. Most of the immediate aid seems to have gone to Chennai and Cuddalore districts.
He did mention that relief is coming in now but it has already been four days and the situation has become
very critical. The local NGOs and good samaritans are doing all they can but the enormity of the disaster
has left them severely understaffed. If timely help is not provided to the victims in the next forty eight
hours many might needlessly perish to infections and other ailments.

The urgent needs are the following :
1) Drinking water
2) Blankets
3) Torches with batteries ( as there is no power in the coastal areas as of now )
4) Dry food ( there is adequate food supply for the next couple of days but stocks are running low )

Dr. Gopalakrishnana may be reached via his mobile phone - 9362736913. If dialing from the US, please
dial 011 and '91' for India followed by the number given above.


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