BLOOMINGTON " Rebuilding is under way one year after tsunamis devastated the coastal areas of several south Asian countries and killed hundreds of thousands of people, said Chandra Shekara, president of the McLean County Indian Association.
Rebuilding is, in part, a result of generous donations of people around the world, including people in Central Illinois, Shekara said.
Shekara, of Bloomington, and Lyn Hruska, executive director of the American Red Cross of the Heartland, recalled the tsunami response on Monday - one year after earthquake-spawned tsunamis killed more than 200,000 people and damaged 400,000 homes in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia and other countries along the Indian Ocean coast.
"We were all in the holiday spirit - like we are today," Hruska recalled. As news of the tsunami devastation spread, "it was sort of unbelievable. The magnitude of it didn't sink in for days and weeks."
"It was very upsetting. Some people lost everything," said Shekara, a native of India who is a computer system designer at State Farm Insurance Cos.
Indian Association members linked up with local members of other south Asian associations and with the Red Cross to collect money at Eastland Mall and elsewhere and to organize an international music night. By the end of January, more than $27,000 was raised, Shekara said.
About half the money went to the Red Cross international relief fund and about half went to the India Development and Relief Fund, Shekawa said.
All told, Central Illinois residents donated nearly $800,000 to tsunami survivors through the Red Cross international relief fund.
State Farm Insurance Cos. donated $1 million.
"It was very gratifying," Shekara said. "People were giving their hearts and their love."
"The response from the community was extremely generous and quick," Hruska said.
Donations are being used in a variety of ways. For example, the India Development and Relief Fund is paying for about 20 projects conducted by volunteers in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand, Shekara said. They include building boats for fishermen and schools for their children. He predicted the rebuilding would go on for at least another year.
The Indian Association will remember tsunami victims with a moment of silence during the group's Indian Republic Day celebration on Jan. 26.