Evacuation of tourists stranded in Andamans delayed due to choppy waters

Earlier attempts made by the rescue ships to reach the islands on Wednesday and Thursday were thwarted due to inclement weather.
Evacuation of tourists stranded in Andamans delayed due to choppy waters
Evacuation of tourists stranded in Andamans delayed due to choppy waters
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According to latest reports, 120 tourists stranded in the Havelock Island in Andaman and Nicobar Islands for the past couple of days embarked on two Coast Guard Ships on Friday afternoon.

The Indian Air Force also rescued another 85 tourists in four shuttles.

Six Indian Navy ships and another two from the Coast Guard sailed from Port Blair on Friday morning in another attempt to rescue around 1000-odd tourists including foreign nationals.  

Two other vessels of the Andaman and Nicobar administration sailed towards Neil Island to rescue tourists stranded there. In total, 1400 tourists are stranded on these two islands, including 320 foreign nationals.   

Earlier attempts made by the rescue ships to reach the islands on Wednesday and Thursday were thwarted due to inclement weather. 

“But due to the swelling of the sea, the two ships cannot reach the jetty at Neil Islands,” a senior Port Blair-based journalist told The News Minute.

“From Friday morning, it has been sunny in Port Blair and the weather appears to be calm, but the L2 alert is still on. The NDMA -in an alert issued at 6 am- said that the cyclone has moved another 10 km towards the Andhra coast,” he added.

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 aerial deployment to expedite the movement of tourists trapped in the islands, and ensure essential supplies.

The authorities had upgraded the disaster-level from L1 on Tuesday to L2 on Thursday.

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 whole 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, four ships dispatched by the Indian Navy for rescuing the 800 trapped tourists in Havelock Island were waiting outside the harbour, unable to commence the operation due to inclement weather.

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

Home Minister Rajnath Singh also on Thursday tweeted, “"Spoke to Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Dr. Jagdish Mukhi who apprised me of the situation in Havelock Islands. All the tourists who are stranded in Havelock Island are safe. The government has made all the preparations to evacuate them," 

Mukhi had held a detailed meeting held on Thursday with the administrative officials and other stakeholders including tour operators' association and hotel owners. He 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 tour operators to desist from taking tourists to North & Middle Andamans 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 stranded tourists, an Andaman and Nicobar administration release said.

However, the MET Office forecast on Thursday predicted heavy rainfall and expected wind speeds to remain at 45-55 kmph. Tourists have been advised to stay in their rooms and 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.

An L2 alert means that an impending  natural disaster may require assistance and active participation of the state, as well as the mobilisation of resources at the state level.

(IANS inputs)

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