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It?s no smooth drive in Car Nicobar

Everyone forgot about the torches till another earthquake rocked Car Nicobar on July 24 this year.

india Updated: Dec 25, 2005 04:19 IST

Everyone forgot about the torches till another earthquake rocked Car Nicobar on July 24 this year. The ground shook at night and tribals from 15 villages rushed and gathered at houses of their respective headman (village captain). They wanted to be taken to a safe place but the captains did not have a torch to lead them into darkness. Worse still, they had no way to get in touch with the local administration.

Fortunately, the waves didn’t rise and seven months after the tsunami, the local administration realised they could do nothing more than watch in the event of another natural disaster.

In its enthusiasm to rehabilitate people in Car Nicobar, the Indian government conveniently forgot about everything else. The result: A year later, the 13 islands in Nicobar district - worst affected by tsunami — do not have a siren system in place to inform them of any calamity. Even if local authorities get intimation of similar disaster hours before it strikes, there is no way the villagers can be informed about it.

“I feel it will come again. I have dreams of waves breaking down my house once again,” says Simon, who is 16 years of age and stopped going to school after tsunami. Simon does not know were his nightmare to come true, he may experience déjà vu.

The government has received requests from the local authorities for setting up simple telephone connections with the village headmen but no action has been taken on it. Nor has anything been done about the sirens. “The local administration has been demanding satellite phones to get in touch with Port Blair and the main land in case of emergencies. The reply from the Centre is negative,” says a senior government official in Port Blair.

“Every villager in Car Nicobar asks whether seawater is rising or not,” Simon says. The office of the Deputy Commissioner does not have any mechanism to know this and they say it is not possible to send anybody to the seashore to check. Telemetric tide gauges can help but need to be installed at various islands, which will give sea-level information to various government officials so that they can tell the villagers and can take appropriate measures.

“Everything is not lost. There is hope in the community. They came out and suggested that a memorial be built so that future generations know what kind of hardships the island has faced. They are also going to keep some of the broken houses as exhibits of the disaster that took everything away. There is a lot of grief but people are not traumatised,” says Vivek Porwal, DC, Car Nicobar.

First Published: Dec 25, 2005 02:17 IST