M A I N   N E W S

4,000 troops join biggest peace-time operation
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 1
The colossal effort put by the three wings of the Indian armed forces has in fact become the biggest peace-time operation undertaken by them to carry out relief, rescue and search operations in tsunami-hit South-East Asia.

The region, which has seen the worst ever devastation following the December 26 killer waves, which hit the entire Indian Ocean early on December 26, has seen the deployment of over 4000 personnel of the Indian armed forces. They are also coordinating relief work with personnel from other countries, specially, in neighbouring Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia.

The Indian armed forces have not only taken initiative in the entire region to carry out search and rescue operations but are also providing relief material in all these countries. Their effort within the country however, remains the biggest and largest operation, specially, in the worst-hit Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

As the toll further mounted today General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Southern Command, Lt-Gen B.S. Takhar, said the devastation in the Car Nicobar islands was total. The death toll in the islands is likely to increase, said Gen Takhar, who undertook an aerial and ground survey of the tsunami-affected areas along the eastern coast.

At present, 12 columns of the army were engaged in relief operations along the affected east and west coasts. The Armed Forces personnel today airlifted medicines to Andaman and Nicobar islands and provided inoculation material to doctors at Port Blair. Over 65 tonnes of fresh water was airlifted to Carnic, which is the closest to the epicentre of tsunami in Sumatra and 20 tonnes of fresh water was airlifted to Port Blair. A number of Mi-8 and Pawan Hans helicopters have been put into operation for dropping of relief supplies.

The armed forces also lifted over 50 tonnes of bleaching powder and food material to the Andam and Nicobar Islands along with generator sets and pumps.

Search and rescue operations have also been undertaken along the coasts of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Andhra Pradesh and at least five Army teams with 600 personnel and 10 naval teams are operating in the region. A survey of Nagapattanam has been carried out to assess the feasibility of rescuing standard boats and similarly search and rescue operations along with the distribution of medical supplies has also been undertaken in Kerala.

Help was also being provided to Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia. The island nation has specially asked for medicines, medical teams and bridges. The armed forces today airlifted an Army Fielf Hospital to Colombo and the Naval divers carried out search and rescue operations along the coast of Sri Lanka.

In Maldives air dropping of medical supplies and relief stores was done and repair of generators was carried out by the naval ships. A Coast Guard ship is also enroute capital Male. For Indonesia two naval ships have been despatched with relief supplies and would reach by January 4. 

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