M A I N   N E W S

PM promises healing touch to victims
Announces Rs 200 cr for Andamans

Port Blair, January 8
Announcing an immediate grant of Rs 200 crore for tsunami-hit Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said there was no resource constraint as India is best equipped to handle the relief and rehabilitation operations in the country.

The Prime Minister, who made a whirlwind tour of the tsunami affected areas in the island territory, said that the immediate task was to provide relief and work for the rehabilitation of the homeless people.

He said a team of scientific experts would be constituted to look into tsunami and related phenomena so as to prepare an effective strategy to protect the country against any future disaster of this magnitude.

“Tsunami and related phenomena need a greater emphasis of our scientific and the technical community. I will ask the Department of Science and Technology to mount a special team to study the phenomenon of tidal waves so that the islands get an effective protection,” the Prime Minister told reporters here after a whirlwind tour of the affected areas of the Union Territory.

Earlier, describing the tsunami disaster as a “national tragedy”, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured the people of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, one of the worst-hit, of all possible Central assistance to restart their lives.

On a day’s visit, Dr Manmohan Singh went to relief camps in Campbell Bay and Nicobar, promising a healing touch to victims who have lost their near and dear ones and found their sources of livelihood wiped out.

“We will help to the maximum extent possible. We want to ensure that each affected family gets assistance from the Centre in terms of employment, education, housing and other basic necessities,” he said.

According to official estimates, 1,205 persons have lost their lives in the Andaman and Nicobar region in 192 affected villages. A population of over 42,000 has been hit and 5,740 are reported missing. As many as 30 relief camps have been set up housing 11,239 victims.

Smashed boats, upturned and twisted rooftops and dazed looks of the affected people bore testimony to nature’s wrath that has left many without houses, jobs and other means of livelihood.

At Kakana village in Car Nicobar, the Prime Minister said freeze on government jobs could be waived for Andaman and Nicobar Islands to provide succour to educated unemployed tribals in tsunami-affected areas.

He said free rations to the affected tribals would be continued till required. Restoration of telecommunication links would be undertaken at a fast pace, he said. All help would be provided to ensure a new beginning for those affected by the tidal wave.

The Prime Minister was accompanied by the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the Lt-Governor of Andaman and Nicobar, Mr Ram Kapse, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr Prithviraj Chauhan, AICC leaders Mukul Wasnik, Shakeel Ahmed, Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary T.K.A. Nair and Special Secretary M.K. Narayanan.

At a relief camp in Campbell Bay, a distraught Moses Isaac of Pilo Millow Island told the Prime Minister about the problem of the fishing community hit by the tidal wave.

“We will make sincere efforts to see that you get new boats,” the Prime Minister told fishermen whose vessels had been badly damaged.

Fresh inundations feared

An increase in the mean sea level after the tsunami coupled with an impending danger of higher surges on new moon night on January 10 has put the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on alert as hapless people face the threat of fresh inundations on the already ravaged land.

Though the administration is not pressing the panic button yet it is on alert following Met predictions of a 0.3-metre rise in the sea from January 10 to 12. Officer in charge of the Command Met office, Commader Salil Mehta, said on Saturday that from January 10 to 12 the sea surge would be on a higher side.

“We have informed the administration and all measures to quell the fear of inundation are being taken,” he said. — PTI


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