The worst human tragedy of the millennium unfolded as the tsunami killer waves hit the Marina Coast of Chennai, the Eastern Coast of Tamil Nadu, and the coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh on 26th December 2004. Nearly 2000 members of WWF pursuing mainly fishing and fishing-related activities were affected by the tsunami. The President and the volunteers rushed to the disaster struck areas immediately after the disaster. Relief materials like rice, clothes, utensils and cash were distributed. The transportation of relief materials was a major hurdle as the roads were badly damaged. WWF was the first organisation to reach many of the tsunami-affected population living in remote areas. After finishing the phase of relief work within 4 weeks, WWF took up the counselling and advocacy work, before doing the needs assessment for the rehabilitation/reconstruction of livelihoods. The responsibility of counselling the tsunami victims was taken by the WWF team in a one-day workshop, where 103 members affected by the tsunami attended. The fear of the sea was overcome and they were ready to take up fishing once more. A rehabilitation programme to provide assets and assistance including fishing infrastructure, house repairs, children education etc. was drawn up.
On 28th June 2005, His Excellency the Governor of Tamil Nadu, Shri Surjit Singh Barnala distributed rehabilitation measures to the tsunami-affected members, at a function organised by WWF. Over Rs.1,17,57,667 were received as financial assistance from various national/international foundations, such as Citibank Foundation, Rabo Bank Foundation, and other smaller groups, an amount of Rs. 25,00,000 had been distributed as immediate relief (within 10 days of the tsunami) to all the affected in the I phase and the rest was provided as rehabilitation assistance to them.
The number of fisherwomen members affected by the tsunami in WWF's branches is 1501 and the estimated cost of rehabilitation is Rs. 92,57,667. Out of the 1501 affected members, 726 members lost their fishing nets (cost of rehabilitation is Rs. 27,63,167), 46 members lost their catamarans (cost of rehabilitation is Rs. 4,48,500), 322 members lost their housing (cost of reconstruction and repairs is Rs. 32,20,000), 357 members lost their fishing trade (compensation of working capital due to loss of fish trade is Rs. 18,26,000). To help the government of Tamil Nadu, 50 Self-help Groups from Cuddalore District, Tamil Nadu were given rehabilitation/relief measures worth Rs. 10,00,000. The assistance for housing reconstruction and repairs to the 322 affected members is yet to be distributed.