Aftershocks jolt ‘forgotten’ islands

Himalayan News Service

Bambooflat, January 2:

Half a dozen aftershocks jolted this archipelago today as military planes and government cargo ships tried to reach thousands of stranded families. India’s Meteorology Department recorded three aftershocks on yesterday night and another three this morning with 5-5.9 magnitudes. Rescue efforts have been hampered as nearly all the jetties in the islands have been demolished by the giant waves. “This is the biggest relief effort in the history of India,” Sri Prakash Jaiswal, deputy Home Minister, told reporters in Port Blair as the government prepared to take journalists on relief sorties to outer islands.

But Bambooflat island is only a 20-minute ferry ride from Port Blair, capital of the Indian territory of more than 500 islands, yet no relief for the tsunami victims has arrived, leaving some 2,000 families angry and desperate for food and shelter.

The Home Ministry had said yesterday some 74 million tons of food, 41 million tons of drinking water and 44 million tons of medicines had been airlifted to the islands.

India has so far denied international aid groups access to most of the island territory of Andaman and Nicobar and journalists have been denied permission to travel to the islands to assess the death and destruction. Yesterday, authorities searched a merchant vessel headed for Hut Bay islands for any journalists on board. Two reporters of the BBC and a reporter for the Associated Press were asked to leave the ship.

Others invited by local officials to travel to Car Nicobar were denied permission at the last minute, including New York-based Amitav Ghosh, an Indian novelist writing for The Hindu newspaper, and Indian film actor Rahul Bose, who is associated with a group of volunteers.