THAZANGUDA, India (AP) – Former President Bill Clinton toured a rebuilt school and new homes Friday in a southern Indian coastal village that was devastated by the deadly tsunami in 2004, and he declared the hamlet a model of reconstruction.

“This area is the first in all of the tsunami-hit region where everyone who’s lost their home has had it replaced,” Clinton said.

Hundreds of people lined the streets to greet Clinton, the top U.N. envoy for the tsunami recovery effort. He accepted drawings and wooden dolls from the children before watching an impromptu puppet show in the hamlet.

The mammoth wave destroyed 130 homes in Thazanguda, leaving most of the fishing community’s 2,600 residents homeless.

In the state of Tamil Nadu, the tsunami ruined 66,400 homes, of which only 23,414 houses have been rebuilt nearly two years after the disaster.

Thazanguda is a rare example of progress. The combined efforts of the United Nations, private contractors and non-governmental organizations have led to the reconstruction of a school, a gymnasium and 119 two-room houses, each one built to withstand future disasters.

“These homes are made so that they are disaster-resistant and have a 10-year warranty against natural calamities,” said U.N. Development Program spokeswoman Surekha Subarwal.

Maiyl Velu, 35, a fisherman who lost his home to the tsunami, marveled at his new dwelling.

“I couldn’t even have imagined that I would have a house like this in my lifetime,” he said.

Clinton later visited a nearby cyclone shelter with a newly installed early warning system and observed a mock disaster drill – calling it a model for others.

“What has been done here, I would like to see copied throughout the world,” he said.

Nearly a quarter-million people in 12 Indian Ocean countries died in the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami caused by a 9.3-magnitude earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra. After the disaster struck, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Clinton to be a special envoy for tsunami relief for a two-year period ending Dec. 31.


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