Fifteen years on, young Indian woman struggles after tsunami 'took away everything'

SERUTHUR, India (Reuters) - Saranya was only nine when the giant waves hit her family’s village in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu on Boxing Day in 2004.

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“The water took away everything,” said Saranya, who lost four siblings and her family home in the tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people across the coasts of several Asian countries.

In India, the Nagapattinam district where her village is located was the worst-affected area with more than 6,000 deaths, mostly from fishing families residing just meters from the seashore.

Reuters has followed Saranya, who goes by only one name, and her family’s journey since the natural disaster altered their lives forever.

Her fisherman father has had difficulty coping and while money, food and shelter provided by aid organizations and the government helped for a few years, Saranya has had to find ways to help feed a brother and a sister born after the tsunami. Her mother died in 2017.

There are also medical bills for her brother Mohan who has physical disabilities.

“After the tsunami, we received a decent amount of money and led a good life. But once that money was finished, our suffering started,” said Saranya, who is now married and pregnant with her first child.

She said grief and the challenges to make ends meet can be overwhelming.

“I am always worried about my siblings as my father does not give any money for their education or food,” Saranya said, adding that she understands her father was badly affected by the disaster and she accepts his limitations.

“Life is really tough now.”

Reporting by Sunil Kataria; Writing by Rupam Jain in Mumbai; Editing by Karishma Singh and Edwina Gibbs