Thursday, January 06, 2005

Katchall Island, India : A 13 years old teen describes tsunami hell

"It's been the fifth day and nobody has come to recover
the dead bodies", Koshi Mackenroe writes from a lost
Island of Indian Ocean.

Across his tsunami-devastated island, his relatives,
friends and teachers lay dead, lost in water that
submerged his home. As Koshi Mackenroe John hunkered
down on a hill with his parents, there was little he
could do except wait for rescuers. So the 13-year-old
started writing letters.

From a forest in remote Katchall Island in India's
Andaman and Nicobar archipelago, Koshi wrote page after
page in his neat cursive handwriting, reporting the
devastation around him and pleading for help.

"Dear Uncle," read one letter dated Dec. 28, two days
after the tsunami. "Everything is over. ... About 2,000
acres of land was overwhelmed and destroyed by the
flood. We are starving over here and trying to send
messages because every communications center or station
is destroyed."

"I hope you will find this letter very soon... We need
an immediate rescue."

Two of Koshi's letters arrived this week in Port Blair,
capital of the island territory, carried by other
evacuees. Volunteer groups delivered them to his uncle
in the city. A volunteer group, Society for Andaman and
Nicobar Ecology, made them available to The AP.

Katchall Island was one of many in the 500-island chain
that was badly affected. Across the archipelago,
officials say more than 6,000 people are missing and
believed dead. India's official death toll is near

Koshi's family, indigenous Nicobarese tribesmen,
survived the waves that swept the island. Along with his
father John Paul, mother Esther and sister Munni, the
teenager scrambled to safety and took shelter on a hill.

From there, brokenhearted, they could see what the
furious waves had done to their island. His letters,
written in English and also sent to government
officials, describe a bleak scene.

"From the west side, only water and water can be seen,"
he wrote. "There is no sign of land or island in the
west. Over 2,600 people have died and more than 600
people are still missing. Less than 800 people have

The Nicobarese tribe, which numbered an estimated 30,000
people before the tsunami, is the archipelago's largest.
Unlike the five other tribes, who live a primitive and
isolated existence, most Nicobarese are Christian
converts and have been partly assimilated into
contemporary society. They live in villages led by a
headman and raise pigs, coconuts, yams and bananas. Many
have access to English-speaking schools.

In a line barely visible behind an ink blot, Koshi wrote
that teachers at his school were among the thousands

"All the teachers except Mrs. Evelyn (with her family),
Verghese and Molly Madam are dead," he said. Of his
extended family, 21 survived but many others were lost.

"We are the only survivors ... and Uncle Sylvester and
his wife too, but they couldn't save the lives of their
three children. Nuni and everyone are dead except two
kids. None from Livingstones' family has escaped.
Everyone is dead or missing except his son Anthony."

Two days after the disaster, a helicopter flew overhead,
raising the family's hopes. "Today the chopper was
flying over; we were signaling but the chopper didn't
land up here," he wrote.

News reached the family of destruction on the rest of
the island. One letter lists towns where no one
survived: Marine, West Bay Katchall, East Bay Katchall,
Ponda, Jansin, Hittat and Mottatapu.

They "have lost their lives completely," Koshi wrote.

Eventually, the Indian government began evacuating
survivors. A doctor was taken in a small boat to safer
ground on a neighboring island. Perhaps their turn would
come soon, Koshi wrote.

Mesmerized, the family listened to state-run All India
Radio for word of an imminent rescue or the fate of
their relatives on other islands.

Some relatives went searching for the bodies of family
members and friends. But none could be found.

"It was heard that Car Nicobar was fully destroyed. What
about our family members and (Uncle Peter) and his
family?" Koshi asked.

His story ended on an upbeat note. A second letter,
dated Dec. 31, expressed heart-felt relief that the
family was finally rescued by a ship searching for
survivors; they were taken to a relief camp on Camorta

Finally, he was safe, but the teenager still worried
about his home island.

"It's been the fifth day and nobody has come to recover
the dead bodies," he wrote.

"If the dead bodies won't be taken out or recovered,
then it's going to be disaster for those people living
there and struggling for life."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Be nice and informative when you post or comment.
Thank you to visit Asian Gazette Blog of Joel Legendre-Koizumi.