Couch potato turns ‘Father Teresa’

Agence France Presse

Port Blair, January 7:

Razak Ali had an ideaabout tsunamis before they hit South Asia and used knowledge gleaned from television nature shows to save India’s Teressa island from disaster. His feat earned him the sobriquet “Father Teresa” after the late “saint of the gutters” of Calcutta, Mother Teresa.

Ali, a wireless operator at the port control tower in the southern Andamanese island, admitted National Geographic was the only satellite cable channel he loved to watch. “The programmes I saw ... really helped,” the 39-year-old Ali said from the northern Andamanese island of Diglipur, where he has been posted as a wireless operator since his evacuation from tsunami-ravaged Teressa.

“After the undersea earthquake I went to my port tower and saw the sea churn and then recede. It was the symptoms experts had spoken about and I instantly said ‘Oh Lord, tsunamis are coming’,” he told AFP by telephone. Ali sprinted out and saw a neighbour cruising by on a moped. “I shouted, I told him to ride full speed around the island and warn people.

“I ran in the opposite direction yelling ‘run, run to higher grounds. Save yourselves’,” said the father of two. Behind him the first wave crashed over port buildings and Teressa’s police station. “The hospital emptied and patients and doctors took to high ground. Three women who turned around to see it was not a prank were swept away,” Ali said in Diglipur, some 250 kilometres from the capital of Port Blair.

“We saved hundreds of people that day because they were already out of their homes because of the earthquakes and could hear our yelling,” he said.