M A I N   N E W S

Central team leaves for tsunami-hit areas
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 4
A central team of senior officials, consisting of three 10-member teams, today left for the tsunami-affected areas to make an on ground assessment of the damage to prepare a report for the rehabilitation and reconstruction work.

Sources said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh monitored the situation today as well and directed officials to make sure that reconstruction and rehabilitation work started at the earliest.

The three teams would be visiting Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala where they would assess the damage caused by the tidal waves and the assistance required for rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Special care is being taken to prepare a comprehensive report and that is why each team comprises the members from the Finance, Animal Husbandary, Surface Transport, Agriculture, Women and Child Development, Education, Rural Development and Water Resources ministries, the sources said.

All three teams are being headed by Secretary (Disaster Management) Ashok Kumar Rastogi, who would submit a report to the government, official sources said.

Based on the report, the government would prepare a financial package for the rehabilitation and reconstruction work. The financial package would include grants and long term bank loans, sources said.

The decision to send a team at this stage was taken by the Group of Ministers on Friday night as it was felt that the beyond immediate relief, inhabitants of the tsunami-affected areas need an early rehabilitation so that day-to-day activties could begin.

Meanwhile, the official toll in the December 26 tsunami disaster mounted to 9,571 and the number of missing rose to 5,801.

The government is taking all precautionary steps to prevent any outbreak of the epidemic.

According to the status report issued by the Home Ministry, the toll stood at 9,571 while there was no confirmation about 5,801 missing people mainly from the Nicobar group of islands.

It said the massive relief and rescue operation, mounted jointly by the states and the Centre, was now focussing on restoration of power and water supply besides prevention of outbreak of any epidemic.

In Andaman and Nicobar Islands, as many as 32 medical officers and 20 nurses were assisting the administration here and emergency medicines and disinfectants were being delivered on priority basis. The Indian Navy had converted its INS Magar into a 120 bed hospital.

Similar steps to prevent outbreak of epidemic were being taken from Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, the report said.

Briefing newspersons about the relief work, Vice-Chief of the Air Staff Air Marshal S.K. Mallik said that the Indian Air Force had ferried six medium haul MI-17 helicopters to Car Nicobar Islands via Myanmar to start evacuation of large number of people still reported to be marooned on the Great Nicobar Island.

“The six helicopters used the shorter Myanmar route as their airlift by giant IL-76 transport aircraft would have hit the movement of relief supplies to the islands,” Air Marshal S. Mallik, Vice-Chief of the Air Staff, said here asserting that emergency repairs to the Carnic Air Strip would be completed within a week to ten days.

He said with the ferrying of six helicopters, the chopper strength on the Nicobar island would be boosted to 10 and would enable the armed forces to launch a sustained rescue operation in the Great Nicobar and outlying islands, where thousands of people are still feared marooned.

He said there could be a pause in the relief flights undertaken by the joint IL-76/78 aircraft as the runway at Carnic required urgent repairs.

Describing the present air relief and rescue operations as the biggest ever undertaken by the IAF, the Vice-Chief of the Air Staff said so far 250 sorties had been mounted by IL-76, AN-32, Avros, Dorniers and helicopters in which over 10,000 people had been evacuated to safer places and 100 tonnes of supplies moved to the tsunami-ravaged areas.

He said the airborne chopper had rescued 20-30 families marooned on the radar site of the base.

A Naval spokesman said 32 warships, seven aircraft and 21 Navy helicopters had been pressed into service for relief work by the Navy in the eastern coastline island territories and in Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Maldives.

He said the Navy was undertaking five major operations — Operation Madad in the eastern coastline, Operation Seawaves in the Andaman, Operation Rainbow in Sri Lanka, Operation Castor in Maldives and Operation Gambhir for Indonesia.

Besides this, he said the Navy had set up a 46-bed hospital on the Naval ship INS Jamuna off Trincomalee.

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