The tsunami that struck 13 countries in South Asia on the morning of December 26, 2004, resulted in a natural disaster of apocalyptic proportions. The sheer scope and severity of destruction prompted extraordinary international attention and support for survivors on the coastal rims and the islands in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.
The short-term public health emergency needs of the surviving population were enormous, of which provision of safe drinking water was of paramount importance to persons who live in relief shelters. It was cautioned that the number of causalities might double with the spread of communicable diseases in tsunami hit coastal areas.
However, the present study showed contamination in 56 (37%) drinking water sources, majority of which were public wells and bore wells. Although one each of Salmonella Paratyphi Band NAG Vibrio was isolated from well water samples subsequently there was no report of acute diarrhoeal or typhoid illness from the Colachel area of Kanyakumari district during post tsunami period, which were monitored for about a month by the public health microbiology laboratory. The public health authorities provided chlorinated drinking water to the displaced population through plastic tanks and potable water through plastic packs. In addition, the coastal area population was advised by the health authorities, not to use well water for drinking purpose which were flooded with sea water due to tsunami. These wells will remain unsafe for some more time and in future the local authorities would probably drain all the wells and allow to replenish again with natural water from ducts.
It is interesting to note that, the literature on disasters also indicates that epidemics of communicable diseases do not always occur after large-scale floods. In the past three decades, epidemics of water borne illness such as cholera and shigellosis have been uncommon after floods and natural disasters but they are quite common in large displacement centers and refugee camps.