New Delhi/Port Blair: Over 2,300 tourists, including a dozen foreigners, were taken to safety by air and sea from Andaman and Nicobar islands on Friday, officials said.
Altogether 2,376 tourists stranded in Havelock and Neil Islands, due to a deep depression formed over Bay of Bengal that later intensified into cyclone storm “Vardah”, were brought to Port Blair during the day long operation, the Directorate of Disaster Management said in a release. The defence ministry said four of the foreigners were from Spain, two each from Germany, Italy and Latvia, and one each from Israel and Ireland.
Six Indian Navy ships, three Coast Guard vessels, besides ships of Directorate of Shipping Services, and three Indian Air Force MI-17 V5 choppers took part in the rescue mission that started on Friday morning despite rain and strong winds, according to a Defence Ministry spokesperson.
The Army and the Andaman administration also joined the rescue operations. The six navy ships that took part in the mission are Karmukh, Kumbhir, Bitra, Baratang, LCU 27 and LCU 38. The three IAF choppers carried out 14 sorties – 11 from Havelock, and three from Neil island.
Earlier, at a high level meeting held at Raj Niwas, Andaman and Nicobar Lt Governor Jagdish Mukhi directed the Andaman Nicobar Command and the Administration to immediately start the evacuation of tourists from Havelock & Neil Islands.
“Six Indian Navy ships and three Indian Coast Guard ships sailed out at 9.30 a.m. from Port Blair for rescue operations. Three Indian Air Force helicopters are also taking part in IN, ICG, Army, State administration joint operation for evacuation of stranded tourists in the Havelock Island,” the Indian Navy said in a statement.
The sudden evacuation mission was initiated at the request of the Andaman and Nicobar Disaster Management, which speculated that the cyclonic storm might strike Havelock, an island about 36 km from capital Port Blair. The navy on Wednesday made its first attempt to rescue the tourists stranded on Havelock.
However, due to extreme weather conditions, the tourists could not reach the jetty to board the ships.
Four navy ships had to return in a failed rescue attempt, the officials from A&N Disaster Management informed.
“Now the weather conditions have improved. It’s only moderate rain and winds,” said an official from A&N Disaster Management.
The official said the sudden evacuation was called for as they did not want to take any risk given that a deep depression (in the sea) developed about 310 km from Port Blair.