Such a situation was not new for the volunteers. In the last 34 years, disaster management has been a key focus of the organisation. This time, they chose Hut Bay and Harminder Bay, one of the worst-affected by the killer waves. Besides, security considerations excluded foreign agencies here. "Hence relief work is confined only to the government and Indian ngos, so it made sense to focus on this region," says Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, director, development communications.
A search was undertaken to locate the survivors—some 5,000 families who had rushed for cover to the tekhris or highlands about 8-10 km away from the coast. Access to these tekhris lay through forests. Only cycles could navigate the terrain. The primary task was to provide food, drinking water and medical assistance. Later, awareness camps were set up to acquaint the villagers with the possibility of epidemics.