Monday, December 29, 2008

NEWS - Fourth Anniversary of Tsunami in A & N Islands


Remembering the Scars of Tsunami…

Andaman & Nicobar Islands – 26th December, 2004

Port Blair, December 26, 2008:

The Lt. Governor, Lt. Gen. (Retired) Bhopinder Singh today led the islanders in paying rich tributes to those who lost their lives in the mammoth earthquake and the catastrophic tsunami on 26th December, 2004. At a solemn function held to commemorate the Fourth Anniversary of tsunami at the Tsunami Memorial at Water Sports Complex, the Lt. Governor laid wreath at the memorial and offered floral tributes.

The devastated Aberdeen Water Sports Complex; Port Blair on 26th Dec., 2004

Others who paid floral tributes included the Member of Parliament (MP), Shri Manoranjan Bhakta, the Chief Secretary, Shri Vivek Rae, the Chairperson, Port Blair Municipal Council (PBMC), Smt. S. Selvi, State Social Welfare Board Chairperson, Smt. Shanta Laxman Singh, Councilors of PBMC, senior officers from Civil and Defence administration, senior citizens and school students.

A two minutes silence was observed and candles were lit as a mark of respect to the departed souls. An all religion prayer was also held on the occasion.

The destroyed Junglighat Jetty; Port Blair, on 26th Dec., 2004

District Control Room:

A newly constructed District Control Room (DCR) for South Andaman District has come up adjacent to the District office at Port Blair, the capital. The Control Room building was inaugurated by the Chief Secretary, Shri Vivek Rae at a simple function held in the DCR premises on 26th December, 2008. The Control Room has video conferencing facility and is connected with other such centers in the A & N Islands and the mainland India, as well. This facility enables communication with the rest of the country wherever NIC’s network facility exists.

Evacuation by Indian Navy at Hut Bay; Little Andaman

The setting up of the District Control Room is a part of the preparedness of the Administration for tackling any disaster type situation as well as in meeting any exigencies etc.

Nicobars Observe 4th Tsunami Day:

Car Nicobar: The 4th Tsunami Day was commemorated at Tsunami Memorial, Big Lapathy; Car Nicobar on 26th December, 2008. Wreaths were laid on the memorial by the Deputy Commissioner (Nicobars), Superintendent of Police (Nicobars) and the Vice Chief Captain of Tribal Council, Car Nicobar. A large number of general public and Govt. officials assembled at the memorial and paid their respects to the departed souls. Similar functions were also held at Nancowry and Campbell Bay Sub-Division.

Aerial view of tsunami-struck Malacca; Car Nicobar on 26th Dec., 2004

Campbell Bay (Great Nicobar) 2 days after tsunami - 28th Dec. 2004

Homage by ANTCC:

The Andaman & Nicobar Territorial Congress Committee (ANTCC) also organized a function on the day at Gandhi Bhavan to pay homage to the tsunami victims of 26th December, 2004 and offered Sarva Dharma Prayer for the solace of the victims’ souls. The function was organized in a bid to pay tributes to the tsunami victims and also in the memory of those killed during the terrorist attack on November 26th, 2008 in Mumbai. The function was attended by the President, ANTCC, Shri Kuldeep Rai Sharma, the MP, Shri M R Bhakta and senior leaders of the Congress Party and of frontal organizations.

All the local dailies published from Port Blair carried a host of obituary messages by the relatives & friends of the Tsunami victims of the Andaman & Nicobar Islands on the Fourth Anniversary of the unforgettable tragedy.

Friday, December 26, 2008



Hi, Friends! On 26th December 2004, precisely four years ago, one of the world’s worst-known disasters – a Tsunami set off by an underwater earthquake – hit the ‘Floating Paradise on Earth’, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The southern part of the Islands, the Nicobars, took the major brunt of the earthquake and the killer tidal waves.

Junglighat Colony, Port Blair

Gandhi Chowk, Car Nicobar.

Hut Bay, Little Andaman

Car Nicobar

Restoration work at Car Nicobar after Tsunami

In the period following the disaster, the Islands received unprecedented attention and saw an influx of ‘outsiders’: both representatives of the administration as well as development workers from Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and elsewhere. Reconstruction and rehabilitation work started in full swing, and their results are not inconsequential. In fact, the Nicobar Islanders were one of the largest focuses of the tsunami rehabilitation efforts in Asia.

Sonia Gandhi with Tsunami victims at Car Nicobar

Four years on from the disaster, the results in some areas are reassuring. However, the pace of rehabilitation efforts seems to have slackened, according to the tribal communities, in certain areas. The Islands are located at considerable distances from each other and from Port Blair, the capital. Relief and recovery processes take long because access to the Nicobars require ‘landing permits’ or a ‘tribal area pass’. In ways more than one, the Nicobar Islands have a long way to go.

Funerals at Car Nicobar after Tsunami

Many in the administration argue that the situation is much better now than what it was on the islands before the tsunami. There are, for instance, two helicopters plying on a daily basis, covering the distance from Port Blair to the Nicobar Islands such as Car Nicobar, Campbell Bay, Kamorta, Teressa and also North Andamans. The quality and frequency of shipping services has improved, although marginally. If anything, there is greater resource allocation now and greater vigilance on the part of the community.

Murugan Temple at Malacca, Car Nicobar after Tsunami

This despondently points to the fact that it took a disaster to make the Government take note of the struggles of the people in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, especially the now-civilized tribal people of the buoyant Nicobarese community. The fate of the other aboriginal tribes of the Islands, viz. the Jarawas, the Onges, the Shompens, the Sentinalese and the Great Andamanese, remains unbeknown.

The Sentinalese, the most hostile of the Tribes in Andamans

A youth from the Shompen tribe of Great Nicobar

The heightened interactions with outsiders and systems after tsunami have been a compelling experience for most Nicobarese who are diffident by nature. The process of acculturation and integration is proving to be a painful one. The fact that monetary gains and greed determine social relations amongst ‘non-tribals’ and the realization that each person is out to make money (with the knowledge that the Nicobarese have received compensation monies) challenges local cultural norms in very deep and fundamental ways.

The olden days’ natives of Arong village, Car Nicobar

Well, friends! In most cases, the solutions are apparent and only require the will of the administration to be translated to reality. I, personally, am in the midst of things at Car Nicobar, as you already know, by way of the Child Led Disaster Risk Reduction (CLDRR) project of WBVHA supported by Save the Children – BRB and am coordinating a serious and sincere endeavor towards securing a better-planned and prepared future for the Nicobarese community with the support and assistance of the mighty Tribal Council of Car Nicobar headed by the Chief Captain, Mr. Aberdeen Blair and of course, Mr. Tapan Mandal, the farsighted Development Commissioner, A & N Administration. Hence, I shall keep you all posted about the journey ahead.

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.