October 14, 2013 3:33:39 am
Within six hours of officials downgrading the danger level at the coastal village of Giddalapaddu,on the Andhra Pradesh-Orissa border,its people started returning to their homes,just 500 yards from the seashore.
They began trudging back as early as 4 am Sunday,even as the sea with its 2-metre high waves still showed remnants of what had transpired the previous night. While boats and fishing equipment in Giddalapaddu,which fell on the path of Cyclone Phailin,were damaged,the villagers were happy to have weathered the storm and returned in time for Dussehra.
Mandu Pataiah,30,recognised as Giddalapadus most experienced fisherman,said he tried to stay put as police came to evacuate them,sending away his wife and two children to the cyclone shelter. However,the size of the waves changed his mind. I have been fishing since I was a teenager but I have never seen such huge and violent waves. An autorickshaw hired by others was going to the relief camp and I went with them, he said.
All night,Pataiah had nightmares of the waves,of his house being washed away. But when he returned Sunday,it was intact. My boat is damaged but I cannot complain. The entire village survived. Today is Dussehra and it is not the time to think about what we lost. We are celebrating what we have.
The mood is equally festive among the others,a sharp contrast to Saturday when policemen and Revenue Department authorities went around checking each house to make sure all were evacuated. About 2,000 people were taken to the Zilla Parishad High School in Borubhanda village,8 km from the seashore.
On Sunday,some could be seen decorating their boats with flowers and garlands,even painting them,others washed their two-wheelers and performed pooja. A few of the Pulsar motorcycles were newly bought and were to be taken for first ride on Dussehra. Many coastal fishing communities believe Goddess Durga arrives in some form or the other during the festival. This time she arrived as a cyclone but it was also due to her grace that we escaped the fury. When we went to cyclone shelters Saturday we did not know that within a few hours we would be back… Come join us,today is a good day, said Tummal Raidi.
Before the storm,he owned four boats and rented out six fishing nets,each costing up to Rs 60,000. All of these were damaged. However,he said,It is good to be back home safe and sound. As always,the sea has never harmed us. Traditionally we sacrifice chicken at the village temple,today we are doing it amidst the waves.
Dandhi Simmiah is thankful he may not have to postpone his daughters marriage. Most of us had taken just precious things and fled. When we saw the number of relief and rescue personnel and the stocks of foodgrains at the shelter,we felt the cyclone was big and could last long. It is a great relief that everything is intact.
In the neighbouring Lakkivalsa village,a marriage pandal that had come down due to the winds was being spruced up. A big banner announced that the planned wedding would take place. The grooms father ran around chirpily selling the extra gallons of diesel he had stocked for his autorickshaw just in case.
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