Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said that all the 1,400-plus stranded tourists at Havelock and Neil islands of the Andamans are safe and urged families not to panic. Singh said rescue teams have already reached Port Blair and will start the evacuation process as soon as the intensity of the cyclone reduces. “All the tourists who are stranded are safe. The government has made all the preparations to evacuate them,” Singh posted on Twitter.
Tourists have been stranded on the twin islands since Monday because of heavy rain and a storm. Cyclonic weather conditions have hampered rescue and evacuation operations. The four ships deployed by the Navy on Wednesday are still anchored near Havelock Island because the heavy downpour coupled with a tropical storm have made the sea rough and dangerous. “We have reached there, but the civilian lives can’t be risked in these rough seas,” Navy spokesperson Captain DK Sharma told Hindustan Times.
Another defence official, however, said that there is adequate food, fresh water and medicines for the stranded tourists. Keeping the adverse weather in mind, commercial airlines have begun waiving charges for passengers cancelling or rescheduling their flights to the Andamans, reported Hindustan Times.
The cyclonic storm has uprooted trees, snapped power supply and caused flooding in low-lying areas of Port Blair. Mobile and internet connection has also been affected. The National Disaster Management Authority said the deep depression over Bay of Bengal has turned into a cyclonic storm that is now moving towards the Andhra Pradesh coast.