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Former US President Visits Tsunami Survivors in India

Former President Bill Clinton has visited Southern India, one region devastated by the tsunami that hit Indian Ocean countries in December. The visit is intended to focus world attention on rehabilitation for millions of survivors.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, center, reacts as he interacts with children at a temporary shelter for tsunami affected people in Nagappattinam, India, Friday, May 27, 2005
Former President Clinton made an aerial survey Friday of coastline ravaged by tsunami waves in Nagapattinam district in the southern Tamil Nadu state. He later met tsunami survivors, including young children, and fishermen and heard tales of how they are coping with the tragedy that hit them five months ago.

A moved Mr. Clinton praised the once thriving fishing community picking up their lives, and finding alternate livelihoods. He said he wanted to help people build better facilities and a more diversified economy.

He also met women entrepreneurs who have begun making handicrafts such as candles and incense sticks after the waves destroyed the fishing boats from which their families earned a living. The former U.S. president promised to try to create a better demand for their products.

"It maybe that in this case because so much is being done on schedule to do these other things, that may be the place where we can help the most, try to help the people market a lot of their products," said Mr. Clinton.

Nagapattinam district was the worst affected by the tsunami in India. The giant waves killed 6,000 people, and destroyed the homes or livelihoods of more than two million people.

The district head of Nagapattinam district, S. Radhakrishnan says Mr. Clinton's visit will boost rehabilitation efforts in the region. "From our side it was a very big morale booster that a person of his stature coming and encouraging us in tsunami relief," he said.

Mr. Clinton has come to the region as the U.N. special envoy for post-tsunami reconstruction. The visit is part of efforts to keep global attention on recovery operations in different countries hit by the disaster. From India he goes on to Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia.

The United Nations says the visit aims at championing a new kind of recovery that will help put the affected communities on a safe and sound development path.

The tsunami killed more than 16,000 people in India and more than 250,000 around the Indian Ocean region.