Andaman requests air sorties to evacuate tourists, send supplies

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Port Blair, Dec 8 (IANS) With the deep depression over Southeast Bay of Bengal intensifying into a cyclonic storm, the Andaman and Nicobar administration on Thursday requested the Defence Ministry to provide air sorties to expedite the movement of tourists trapped in the islands and ensure essential supplies.

In view of the inconvenience faced by the tourists who are held up in Havelock and Neil Islands mainly due to inclement weather, Andaman and Nicobar Lt Governor Jagdish Mukhi has directed all hotel owners in the two islands to provide accommodation and food to the stranded tourists free of charge for the period of extended stay both as a humanitarian gesture and as part of Corporate Social Responsibility

Meanwhile, as the depression lay 340 km northeast of Car Nicobar and 240 km west by southwest of Port Blair, the four ships despatched by the Indian Navy for rescuing the 800 trapped tourists in Havelock Island were waiting outside the harbour, unable to start the operation due to inclement weather.

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“The ships will hold position and return only after picking up the tourists,” said a Defence Ministry spokesperson in Kolkata.

During the day, Mukhi held a detailed meeting with the administrative officials and other stakeholders including tour operators’ association, hotel owners and directed the Directorate of Shipping Services to make all possible efforts to send boats to Havelock and Neil Islands once the sea conditions improved.

The administration has also asked the tour operators not to take any tourist towards North & Middle Andaman as a precautionary measure, till the weather improved. The Directorate of Tourism is coordinating with all airline agencies for the smooth and timely return journey of the tourists to their respective home towns, an Andaman and Nicobar administration release said.

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However, the MET Office has forecast heavy rainfall/ wind at a speed of 45-55 kmph during the next 24 hours. The tourists have been advised to stay in their rooms and stay away from coastal areas till further notice.

The cyclonic weather witnessed in the Islands since Tuesday has resulted in uprooting of trees, disruption of power supply and flooding of some of the low lying areas.

However, there is no report of any loss of life, from any parts of the Islands so far. All the Emergency Operation Centres across the islands are functioning round the clock and are on high alert. The situation is being monitored at the highest levels round the clock.



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