Tuesday, December 9, 2008



Dear friends!

I’m again leaving to serve the disaster-struck Car Nicobar on 9th December, 2008 for about a couple of weeks by M V Sentinel. Hence, before I leave, let me share with you all, the very history of DISASTER in the serene Andaman & Nicobar Islands based on my own study on the same during my current project of Child Led Disaster Risk Reduction (CLDRR) that I’m coordinating in the territory of Car Nicobar. Friends, this is what I’ve found out…


The serene Andaman & Nicobar Islands are located in the Bay of Bengal, to which, geographically belong, the Preparis Island and Coco Island (Myanmar) groups also. The islands are formed by the summits of a submarine range connected with the Arakan Yoma of Burma (Myanmar), stretching in a curve (southwards in an arch over 1100 km of sea into Sumatra) to which the Meridian 92 E forms a tangent, between cape Negrais and Sumatra (Achin Head). The extreme north point of Andaman lies in the 13 41’N and the extreme south of Nicobar in 6 45’ N. This curved line of the submarine hills extends for 700 geographical miles & encloses the Andaman Sea in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. In between, there are numerous straits that separate the 204 islands but if all the islets and rocks were faithfully counted, there are 572 islands in the archipelago. The Islands are 1397 km away from Kolkata.


Total area - 8249 sq. km.

Area of Andaman District - 6408 sq. km.

Area of Nicobar District - 1841 sq. km.

Latitude - 6 45’N to 13 41’N

Longitude - 92 12’E to 93 57’E

Minimum temperature - 16.7 C

Maximum temperature - 36.1 C

Mean annual rainfall - 3180.5 mn

Average relative humidity - 77%

Coast line - 1962 km

Area under cultivation - 150 sq km

Area under plantation - 300 sq km

Area under forests - 7094 sq km

Distance between Port Blair (capital) and Kolkata (by sea) - 1249 km

Distance between Port Blair and Chennai (by sea) - 1190 km



Cyclonic storms struck Port Cornwallis in December, 1792, the Archipelago in November, 1844 and Port Blair in 1864, and November, 1891. There were also abundant signs of destructive storms between Stewart, Sound and Port Cornwallis Islands in 1893. The great storms of 1891 and 1893 traveled across the Islands in a north- westerly direction, creating havoc on both the east and west coasts, that were the most disastrous storms for these islands.

Despite the threat of cyclones and their positions in the path of almost every storm that passes over the Bay of Bengal, the Islands have not been as badly ravaged by the winds as might be expected. Graphic descriptions of the cyclone of 1891, which hit Port Blair, the capital in 1864 & 1891 and the cyclone of 5 Oct, 1921, that passed between Port Blair and Hut Bay and on 5 & 6 Nov, 1989 passed between Mayabunder (North Andaman) and Port Blair were the cyclonic storms that ravaged the greater part of the A & N Islands and though it did not cause much destruction to life, due to Early Warning Systems based on imagery, it left devastation in its wake, with crops flattened, houses destroyed and the entire fields swamped by saline water.


Earthquake occurs when rocks are subjected to strain and rupture, moving past each other suddenly along a fault plane, forming seismic waves that move through the earth. What is called the FOCUS of the earthquake is the place below the surface where the slippage occurred; the EPICENTER is the place on the surface of the earth, directly above the focus. When a severe earthquake occurs, it can destroy buildings and other structures and cause greater loss of life. The tremors caused by earthquake may trigger landslide, or cause certain types of clay to liquefy and flow down slopes, causing damage to structures on its surface. The MAGNITUDE of an earthquake is the amount of energy released. It is read directly from the seismogram record. On the Richter scale the magnitude is registered logarithmically.

Because of the loss of life and property caused by earthquake, geologists and seismologists are trying to find a way to predict them; Chinese scientists have utilized the sudden change in the behavior of animals to predict earthquakes. In the United States and elsewhere, geologists monitor uplift and tilting of the land surface, change in ground water flow and level, and other physical characteristics. Most of the most severe earthquakes occur in the narrow bands along plate boundaries; the goal is to find an accurate way to predict the timing and magnitude of an earthquake.


Although the Andamans lie along or are close to a recognized subterranean line of weakness, earthquakes of great violence have not been recorded during the British occupation. Minor earthquakes occurred in August, 1868, February, 1880, and then storks at intervals till December, 31st, 1881, February, 1882, August, 1883, July, 1886, July, 1894, October, 1894, October, 1894, and in October, 1899. The sound of the great seismic disturbance in the straits of Sunday on August, 26th, 1883 was heard in Port Blair at 9 pm that day, and extra tidal waves caused thereby were felt at 7 am on the 27th.


Seismicity below the sea can generate large sea waves called Tsunamis or Tidal Waves, which cause heavy coastal destruction when they strike the land. The tidal observatory with a self-registering gauze on Ross Island, established in 1880 is situated in 11º 41’N & 92º 45’ E. The heights are referred to the Indian spring low water mark, which for port Blair is 3.53 feet below mean sea level. The highest spring and the lowest neap are 8 feet above and 8 feet below. The mean range of greatest ordinary spring is 6.6feet.


CYCLONIC STORMS - December, 1792 - Port Cornwallis; November, 1844 - Entire Archipelago; November, 1864 - Port Blair; 1st & 2nd November, 1891 - Port Blair; 5th October, 1921 - Between Port Blair & Hut Bay; 5th & 6th November, 1989 - Between Mayabunder (N/Andaman) & Port Blair. 

EARTHQUAKES - 31st Oct to 5th December, 1847 - Great Nicobar; 31st December, 1881- Car Nicobar; August, 1883 - Nicobar Islands; October to November, 1889 - Andaman & Car Nicobar; August, 1868 - Andaman Islands; February, 1880 - Andaman Islands; December, 1881 - Andaman Islands; February, 1882 - Andaman Islands; August, 1883 - Andaman Islands; July, 1886 - Andaman Islands; July, 1894 - Andaman Islands; October, 1899 - Andaman Islands; September, 1990 - Andaman Islands; 1941 - Andaman Islands; 1962 - North Andaman; 1978 - Middle Andaman; 1982 - South Nicobar Group. 

TSUNAMI - 31st October, 1881 - A & N Islands; 26th December, 2004 - A & N Islands.


According to the United States Geologists’ survey, on 26th December, 2004, from Sumatra 250 km in Southeast under the sea, the earthquake originated at 9 Richter scale. Many small islands were displaced 20 meters from their own land. In 25 countries, within 15 minutes, alert order got in place for the tidal waves except Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia, which were the worst affected. Tsunami erupts only if the earthquake is more than 6.5 on Richter scale. According to the scientists, on 26 June, 1941, an 8.1 earthquake on Richter scale did not generate Tsunami.

The Meteorology Department of India has the record of Pacific Ocean’s Tsunami on 17th July, 1998 at Papuanyugini, which killed 2,500 people and on 23rd Aug, 1996 at Philippines, 8,000 people died due to Tsunami but the Government of India failed to set up any type of equipment or machinery to detect earthquakes and Tsunami; however, after 2001 earthquake, it was decided to build a Disaster Management Committee in India at the international level but that did not materialize.

On 26th December, 2004, a catastrophic Tsunami hit India after 121 years and according to the Director of Geological Survey of India and a famous geologist Dr. Sujit Dasgupta, “On 31st December, 1881, Tsunami and earthquake in the coastal region of Bengal and A & N Islands was not so disastrous. According to him, this type of earthquake comes every 114 to 200 years when changes of the tectonic plates of the earth take place.


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