New Tremors Hit India's Coast

Published December 28, 2004

| Associated Press

A string of Indian islands were rattled Tuesday by aftershocks following the massive quake on the weekend, while emergency aid was rushed to survivors of the tsunami (search) waves that killed at least 4,300 people along the nation's southeastern coast.

In addition to the confirmed dead, another 3,000 people are feared to have been killed by Sunday's killer waves on the Andaman and Nicobar islands (search), which were shaken by seven aftershocks of 4.4 to 5.5 magnitude overnight.

"The death toll is estimated around 3,000 dead and another 3,000 missing in the islands," said A. N. Basudev Rao, the deputy inspector-general of police, in Port Blair, contacted by telephone. "We have so far recovered only 200 bodies."

A statement by the Home Ministry in New Delhi said the confirmed death toll in India stood at 4,371 on Tuesday, including 3,618 in the worst hit state of Tamil Nadu. The national toll would go up dramatically if the Andaman and Nicobar deaths are confirmed, most of which are believed to have occurred on Car Nicobar island.

The Andaman and Nicobar region is made up of more than 500 islands, but about 30 are inhabited. Located about 1,500 kilometers (915 miles) east of the Indian mainland, the islands were the site of a notorious penal colony used to imprison Indian independence leaders during British colonial times.

Rao said that all the inhabited islands were hit by Sunday's tsunamis.

"We have been unable to reach two of them with a population of up to 1,000 each because of rough sea," Rao said.

The Hindustan Times newspaper reported Tuesday that the missing included 200 air force personnel stationed there.

All the villages and the road along Car Nicobar's coast were washed away, the region's police chief S.B. Deol said in an interview with New Delhi Television network.

Meanwhile, authorities rushed drinking water and medicines and tried to improve sanitary conditions for thousands of survivors living in relief camps dotting India's southern coast.

The air force and coast guard used planes, helicopters and ships to deliver food and generators to ruined coastal areas.

In the worst hit district of Nagappattinam in Tamil Nadu state, some bodies still rotted in the slush left behind by Sunday's tidal waves. Most of the 40,000 people living in relief camps defecated in the open, posing a health hazard.

"As we were busy recovering the bodies, we were not able to focus on sanitation and other relief operations immediately," Veera Shanmuga Moni, top district administrator, told The Associated Press.

"Now we are gearing up our infrastructure to provide protected drinking water and sanitation to people. I don't see a chance of any epidemic and we are confident our machinery will handle this big task," Moni said.

Hindus, giving up the their tradition of burning bodies, asked authorities to help them in mass burials, due to the scarcity of wood. Some lit incense sticks as the bodies of their loved ones were lowered into graves.

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