(27 Dec '04)
27 December 2004–Amritapuri
The danger is over. But the damage has been done. While no one at the Ashram was injured, the villagers have suffered great losses. Family members are dead and missing. Many of their houses and huts have simply been washed away. The government has evacuated the area, asking everyone stay on the other side of the backwaters for the next 48 hours. Under Amma’s instructions, relief camps have been set up at both the Amrita University School of Engineering and at the new Ayurveda School. More than 3,000 evacuees are being accommodated there.
Five villagers in the neighbourhood were killed; at least 150 in Kollam District. More bodies are being discovered every hour. When one considers that there were more people in the Ashram–20,000 at the time–than in the entire Allappad Village it shares the peninsula with, it can only be grace that none of them were hurt.
The ashramites are also homeless for the time being, having taken with them only the clothes on their backs. But they are making sure the villagers are all right–that they have straw mats to sleep on, that they have food three times a day, that they have water and milk. In the middle of the night, Amma even asked them to give up the mats they were sleeping on for the use of the villagers.
The government has set up relief centres in nine of the area’s schools, and it is Amma’s Ashram that is providing those centres with food and other necessities like clothes and blankets.
Six ambulances from the Ashram’s AIMS Hospital, with medical teams lead by 10 doctors are making regular rounds. They are visiting each camp every two hours, 24 hours a day.
In all, the Ashram is preparing food for 10,000 people, three times a day. The brahmacharis are cooking the rice, uppama and curries, and the brahmacharinis and many of the devotees from around the world are busy chopping vegetables. The food is then being carried in Ashram trucks to the relief centres. The brahmacharis are also delivering sacks of uncooked rice for distribution, as many people’s food supplies have been washed away.
All along, it has been Amma Herself that has been directing the relief efforts. As soon as the water rose, Amma stopped giving darshan, wrapped Herself in a yellow shawl and began giving instructions from the temple balcony. She then came down into the water and started personally seeing that everyone was getting to safety.
At one point, brahmacharies rescued some 50 people who were stranded on top of a house and could not swim. They extended a plank from the Ashram kitchen to their roof and helped them across.
Amma made sure that everyone in each family was together before sending them across the river in the boats. She was concerned that if they did not cross as families that they would get separated and not know where the rest of their loved ones were or if they were ok.
First the villagers were sent across, then the devotees and then the ashramites. The elephants and cows were sent around dusk via the Beach Road Bridge. Amma was the last person to leave the Ashram. She only left because She knew that if She did not leave, some of the disciples also would not.
When Amma reached the other side of the backwaters, it was past midnight. She then started further organising relief work, telling groups of brahmacharis where to go and what to bring in order to take care of the people.
This morning Amma visited the relief camps set up by the Ashram, consoling all the people there and inquiring about their homes and families. She then visited the families of the deceased.
The Ashram is also actively involved in relief operations in Cochin (Vaippin), Trivandrum, Chennai and Pondicherry. Amma has told all the Ashram branches throughout South India to help in the relief efforts.
Amma has not slept or even water since the beginning of the tragedy. When someone asked Amma to drink some water, She simply said, “How can I take when so many people have died.”