M A I N   N E W S

Focus now on streamlining relief
S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 1
The overall death toll in the tsunami tidal waves in the country has gone up to 8,955 and the number of those missing to 3872, mostly in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, according to figures officially released here today.

Claiming that the situation in tsunami-hit states is “under control”, the Centre said it had deputed nine senior officers to the Nicobar Islands, which is the worst-affected, to strengthen administrative machinery so as to ensure speedy and systematic relief and rehabilitation work.

“The situation is under control though the toll has mounted to 8,955 as on 4 p.m. today as compared to yesterday’s figure of 7763... As many as 1,146 bodies were recovered from Nagapatinam in Tamil Nadu in the last 24 hours,” Secretary (Disastar Management) A K Rastogi told mediapersons here.

Nagapatinam had reported 5525 deaths till 4 p.m. today, even search operations were continuing, Mr Rastogi said.

Though relief and rehabilitation work in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and other states was on at a “vigorous pace”, the major problem of communication network between the island territory and the mainland would ease with teams carrying INMARSAT leaving for faraway destinations of Katchal, Kamrota, Terassa, Champin and the Hutbay islands, he said.

“The aboriginal Jarawa tribals based in middle and South Andamans are safe in their habitat”, he said, adding their population, which was 240 in the 2001 census, was 266 now.

However, there is no report so far about the Shompen tribes, who had been seen during the aerial survey yesterday. They have a recorded population of 398.

Meanwhile, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs K.P. Singh said to strengthen the administrative set up nine senior officers, either having served earlier in the Nicobars or under posting for the islands but not relieved by their parent departments, had been deputed to the Andamans.

Air Force aircraft in coordination with the Navy and the Army today airlifted over 295 MT of relief materials to tsunami-hit areas, especially to the Nicobar group of Islands.

Stating that as many as 6,35,568 people had been evacuated so far and a majority of them accommodated in various relief camps, Mr Rastogi said arrangements had been made to ensure airlift of another 450 MT of relief material tomorrow.

Naval warships were reaching faraway and isolated islands, using small boats and ‘dongis’ to take supplies to the affected people.

Asked about the huge difference between the official toll and the toll projected by various voluntary organisations, Mr Rastogi said the government was releasing the toll figures based on the authentic surveys/counts made by officials on the ground.

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