1,400 tourists stranded in Andamans to be rescued once cyclone subsides: Rajnath
Centre steps in to rescue 1400 tourists stranded in two Andaman islands, Union home minister Rajnath Singh says all are safe, operations to be launched once cyclone’s intensity reducesUpdated: Dec 08, 2016 10:26 IST
Nearly 1,400 tourists stranded at two islands in Andaman and Nicobar will be evacuated once the intensity of a cylone pounding the archipelago reduces, the government said on Thursday, amid rising concerns over their safety.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh also asked family members of the tourists not to panic.
“All the tourists who are stranded in Havelock island are safe. The government has made all the preparations to evacuate them,” Singh said in a series of tweets.
Though he mentioned only one island, reports from Port Blair – the capital of Andaman and Nicobar – said the 1,400 also included hundreds of people trapped in Neil island, another popular resort in the archipelago on the Bay of Bengal, since Monday.
Earlier reports had said 800 people are stranded at Havelock.
Four vessels despatched by navy from Port Blair on Wednesday could not rescue the people due to rough seas and heavy rains, triggered by a tropical storm, officials said.
“The government will launch the rescue operations immediately after the intensity of the cyclone reduces. The teams are ready in Port Blair,” Singh said, adding he spoke to Jagdish Mukhi, the lieutenant governor of the Union Territory.
The group of islands has been pounded by heavy rains and winds for the past few days, severely affecting travel to the mainland.
Andaman administration officials said the cyclonic storm has uprooted trees, disrupted power supply and caused flooding in some low-lying areas of Port Blair.
Mobile and internet connectivity have also been snapped in many areas.
Every year, thousands of tourists from India and abroad visit the Andaman islands known for their sun-soaked pristine beaches and water sports, including snorkelling and sea walking.
October-to-February is considered the best time to travel to the islands, which also house the famous Cellular Jail in Port Blair, built by the British to jail dissenters.
All three defence wings – the army, navy and air force – have bases in the Andamans.
“We have reached there but the civilian lives can’t be risked in these rough seas,” said Captain DK Sharma, a naval spokesman. “We will begin moving them only after the conditions improve.”
Another defence official said “adequate food, fresh water, medicines and doctors besides divers and local administration personnel are being ferried on board to provide succour and relief”.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee also sought the Centre’s help to rescue the tourists. The state accounts for the highest number of tourists to Andamans.
“We do not have a clear idea about how many tourists from Bengal are stranded there, but we are trying to get the details from New Delhi,” an official said on Kolkata.
Commercial airlines said they have begun waiving charges for passengers cancelling or rescheduling their flights to the Andamans due to the adverse weather.