- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

MADRAS, India — Rescue workers said they had discovered a 2-year-old child alive amid a pile of rotting corpses at a village in the tsunami-hit southern state of Tamil Nadu yesterday.

“The rescue of the infant girl so long after the calamity indicates that more lives could have been saved if the relief work was better organized,” said S. Lincoln, a lawyer. “Most of the work of collecting bodies is being done by volunteers.”

The toddler survived one of history’s worst natural disasters while everyone around her, including her mother, perished.

She was found lying in a pile of 35 dead bodies in the village of Mala Manakody on the tip of the Indian peninsula.

As relief workers continued to uncover bodies, fears of disease grew.

Christian Aid warned of “bodies rotting where they have fallen” threatening to contaminate the groundwater supply in southern India.

“Where entire villages have been wiped out, there is literally no one to tend to the dead,” an official of the aid group said.

Tamil Nadu took the brunt of the devastation caused by Sunday’s surging seas, with the official death toll now put at about 4,000.

The dead wait to be buried or cremated, as graphic accounts pour in from battered coastal districts of bodies lying rotting in the fields or in totally destroyed villages.

“Bodies have been lying in the open for days, as the civil administration is just unable to cope with the scale of the disaster,” said Anton Gomes, a leader of one local fishermen’s group.

“If the government is serious about providing relief to the victims of the disaster, they should first ensure that all the bodies are collected and disposed of,” he said.

To add to the problem, the sea is still disgorging dead bodies onto the shore.

In Tamil Nadu’s capital, Madras, the bodies of two children were found on the beach behind St. Thomas Cathedral, where many Christians believe one of the 12 Apostles is buried.

“The dead children were not from the local fisherfolk community — the bodies seem to have been dragged in from some other village along the coast,” said Brother Antony. The parish has provided shelter for some 600 families displaced by the tsunami.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh canceled his scheduled tour of Tamil Nadu yesterday, with an aide explaining that he did not want the visit “to disrupt any of the relief work.”

Instead, Mr. Singh called meetings of his top ministers to coordinate relief operations in the tsunami-affected states.

“What you have to understand is that the fishermen have lost not just their homes, but also their livelihoods — boats, engines, fishing nets, everything,” said Mr. Gomes. “They will need help for years to recover from this disaster.”

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