After one couple laid the body of their daughter in the deep pit, a bulldozer shoveled in sand and the little girl disappeared from view. They then stepped aside for others to bury their children, denied any chance for a service or private mourning.
Most of the children, ages 5-12, were buried as they were found in their Sunday clothes without the luxury of a shroud.
Local officials wanted to quickly finish the burial, and the cremation of adult victims, so they could turn their attention to helping those left alive.
"There will be a time for crying, but that will come later. Now the priority is to shelter those who survived," said fisherman Akilan, 28, who lost two nephews when waves struck their house. Akilan uses only one name.
Bodies of young and old lay unclaimed at the town morgue, awaiting identification by relatives. Doctors called them in one by one over a public address system, while vans with wailing sirens brought in newly discovered bodies.
Many emerged from the morgue shaking their heads in silence after failing to identify any of the bodies as that of their loved ones.
Venkatesh, who uses only one name, found his 11-year-old son Suman as his body was lowered on to a gurney.
The 37-year-old man had been in Dubai, where he went three months ago as a construction worker. When his wife called from Cuddalore to tell him their boy was missing, Venkatesh flew home immediately and went straight to the morgue.
There, he found his wife and daughter minutes before Suman's body was brought in.
"I never thought I would only see my son's body," cried Venkatesh, refusing even a sip of water.
Within moments, an identification tag was tied to the boy's hand and his body taken inside.
As one of his relatives pulled him away, Venkatesh kept asking: "How can I go, leaving behind my son?"
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