Friday, January 07, 2005

Baha'i Recovery Efforts in Andaman and Nicobar Islands

I just found this letter, dated January 5, from the NSA of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands; it appears that the government and NSA are working together on this. The following is an extract of a letter sent to the Universal House of Justice. I have not yet been able to uncover any participation in the relief efforts by the UHJ itself.

We will try to provide you with an update on the current position in our Islands in the aftermath of the Tsumani and earthquake that hit us on 26/12/04. We were not able to send you a report earlier, because communication to most of the Islands had been totally cut off and reports received here did not sound very dependable. Two days ago, a team consisting of 7 of friends (i.e. Baha'is) visited the island of Little Andaman to distribute the relief supplies sent there by the Government. This visit was made at the request of a senior Government Official and 8 members of the Catholic Church were also part of the team. Relief material was distributed and a general survey of a part of the island carried out. The team was able to get an impression and co-relate with the reports that were being received from all over the islands.

As far as I'm concerned, no one deserves our respect more than those who actively work in the relief efforts. All of us can write a check; only a few are able to actually do the hands-on work.

I'm including the rest of the letter as well, since it is a description of how things are going in that country, and this is an area that has not been as much reported on in the press as some others.

The tremor, measuring 8.5 on the Richter scale hit the Islands at 0636 hrs (Indian Standard Time) on 26/12/04 and, although it sent everyone out of their homes, it did not claim any lives but caused some minor damage to properties and buildings.

The Tsunami hit the chain of Islands almost immediately afterwards. The Islands in the Nicobar group have been almost completely devastated. We give you below a picture of the situation island wise:

1. Great Nicobar: The low-lying areas have been totally washed out and all the houses destroyed. The loss of life is approximately 300 but all our believers (Baha'is) are reported to be safe although most of them have completely lost their homes and all their belongings. Road communication in the island has yet to be established.

2. Nancowry group: Here also there has been total destruction in the low-lying areas. We have no report regarding the status of our believers. Loss of life has been great.

3. Car Nicobar: This Island witnessed large-scale destruction of complete villages because it is relatively flat and most of the villages were situated a few meters from the shore. Relief and supplies was very quick in reaching this island because of the presence of the Air Force Base and an airfield. At the time of reporting, life on the island is limping back to normal.

4. Little Andaman: Hut Bay and its surrounding areas have been completely devastated. The friends have lost their homes and all their belongings but all of them are safe. They are at present living on the hillocks in small temporary shelters.

5. South Andaman: There has been relatively little damage in this area although in certain villages the friends have lost their entire crops.

6. Middle and North Andaman: This entire belt has not been affected by the Tsunami.

At the time of reporting the total casualties has been put at 6842 which is 6, 010 missing and 832 dead. Although this figure does not seem very hgh compared to other countries as well as the initial reports that were coming in it amounts to approximately 1.5% of our population.

In this lonesome night of despair our eyes turn toward you beseeching you to offer prayers at the Sacred Threshold that the Blessed Perfection may shower His blessings upon our Community.

I'm going to check the news to see if there are any more recent reports from that country.

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