Bambooflat pleads for attention, relief
Bambooflat island is just 20 minutes by ferry from Port Blair, yet no relief for the tsunami victims had arrived by Saturday, leaving about 2,000 families angry and desperate. "You're the first man to come here and ask us how we are," Abdul Hamza told former Minister Jaswant Singh, as he walked the narrow alleys flanked by rice paddies still flooded six days after last Sunday's tsunamis swept over these islands in the Bay of Bengal.
"We are right next to (the capital) Port Blair and still no official bothered to care for us," said Hamza, 50, a Muslim rice farmer wearing a traditional skullcap and long white tunic. "I am touched by your concern. It brings tears to my eyes." Singh advised the man to "keep your courage and your trust".
India has denied international aid groups access to most of the island territory of Andaman and Nicobar, the country's last tsunami blind spot where casualties are not known but feared to be in the thousands.
The authorities bar foreigners from the isolated islands, partly for security reasons because of an Indian Air Force base in Car Nicobar and to protect a dwindling group of indigenous people. Even Indians need special permits to travel there. Some 40 per cent of the densely forested area is designated as a tribal reserve where indigenous people live; the remaining area is protected for wood cultivation.
Homeless and stunned victims of last Sunday's disaster continued to pour into eight relief camps in Port Blair, with harrowing tales of death and destruction. Walking long distances through dense forests to get to the nearest airfield, they were grateful they had survived but anxious to learn if their friends and families were safe.