Boy stuns grave-diggers by reviving among bodies

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 January, 2005, 12:00am

An eight-year-old Indian tsunami victim stunned grave-diggers when he opened his eyes and sat up just as he was about to be buried in a mass grave.

The volunteer grave-diggers were collecting bodies piled up in a makeshift mortuary in India's worst-hit district, Nagappattinam in Tamil Nadu state, when the apparently dead boy revived.

Anthony Praveen's survival has been hailed as a miracle in his home town of Velankanni, a Christian pilgrimage town 350km south of Chennai in Nagappattinam, where at least 5,525 people lost their lives to the Boxing Day tsunami.

Anthony was among a pile of corpses that were about to be taken to a mass grave that had been dug on a nearby beach when he regained consciousness, the Daily Tanthi reported.

He was in a stupor and could not understand what had happened to him.

Shortly after being admitted to hospital in Nagappattinam, Anthony recovered sufficiently to give doctors his name, address and other details. However, minutes later, he fell mute and has not spoken since.

Doctors sent Anthony for psychiatric treatment at Chennai's Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital, where he has remained speechless since Tuesday.

'He is totally mute, apparently a victim of a severe trauma. Time is needed to treat him,' one of his doctors said.

Another doctor said Anthony was suffering from a classic case of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Anthony still does not know that both his parents and his sister were killed by the tsunami.

His father, an impoverished labourer from Chennai, took his wife and two children on a pilgrimage to the Church of Our Lady of Health in Velankanni.

After the family offered their hair to the church - a custom common among Christians in the area - they went to the beach.

Anthony's father then took the boy for a swim in the sea as part of their holy rituals, while his wife and daughter waited on the shore. Minutes later, the tsunami struck and all four were swept away.

'They went to offer their hair to [Mother Mary of] Velankanni to propitiate her. In return they lost their lives to the sea. I don't know why she gave this rude blow to us. How can I take care of this boy and his education now?' said Anthony's 70-year-old grandmother, who visited him in the hospital in Chennai.