Mon, Jan 03, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Authorities are not doing enough, relief groups say


Aftershocks, flooded hospitals, bad roads and a lack of government coordination were some of the factors hampering relief efforts in India on yesterday.

The Indian-administered archipelago of the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal were jolted yesterday by three earthquakes measuring between 5 to 5.5 on the Richter scale, but casualties were yet to be reported.

It was nearly impossible to deliver aid to many people on the islands because harbors, jetties and runways were damaged. Aerial surveys conducted by the coastguard revealed that parts of some islands were flooded and the water was not receding.

A week after the killer tsunamis struck, information was still emerging on the actual toll in the Andamans. So far, 812 bodies have been recovered. The federal home ministry said 3,754 people are still missing, but police said more than 5,000 people couldn't be traced.

Food, medicine, water and blankets piled up in the Andamans' capital of Port Blair and even in Calcutta on the Indian mainland waiting to be shipped to survivors.

Many voluntary organizations, like Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, alleged there was little government aid or coordination, the Indian Express newspaper reported. Homeless and angry, people in the islands complained of an acute shortage of food and held demonstrations outside government offices alleging that crates of bottled water were being sent to senior officials for their personal use, the report said.

It also quoted Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) director Stuart Zimble as saying, "We are handicapped by lack of access."

Yesterday, UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) vans arrived in Nagapattinam, the worst-affected town in southern India's Tamil Nadu state where the overall death toll rose to 7,397.

In Nagapattinam alone 5,525 died. The government said the nationwide toll was now 8,942, with 3,874 people still missing.

Over three days, 40 vans were to cover 225 relief camps in Tamil Nadu in the areas of Nagapattinam, Cuddalore and Kanyakumari and parts of the federally-administered region of Pondicherry to help prevent any outbreak of diarrhoea. Health workers distributed oral rehydration salts (ORS), soap, water and leaflets on how to cope with diarrhoea. "Diarrhoea is a child killer, but we can stop dehydration with ORS and good information," said UNICEF's India representative.

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