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Joint Media Briefing by Foreign Secretary Shri Shyam Saran and Vice Admiral Shri Raman Puri, Chief of Integrated Service Command


New Delhi
January 5, 2005

OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. This is a joint press briefing of Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Defence on the relief efforts in the wake of Tsunami disaster. 

It is a great pleasure for me to have the Foreign Secretary here and also Vice Admiral Raman Puri, Chief of Integrated Staff of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. I will first request the Foreign Secretary to kindly make his remarks after which Vice Admiral Puri will take up the briefing. 

FOREIGN SECRETARY (SHRI SHYAM SARAN): Good evening to all of you and wish you all a very very Happy New Year. 

You are aware of the very major disaster that struck India along with Sri Lanka, Maldives, Thailand and Indonesia, and what we have been through over the last several days. What I wanted to convey to you here was that our response to this disaster was extremely prompt and it was a massive effort which was launched by a very well oiled machinery which was already in place. This is not the first disaster that India has had to handle. 

Over the past few years we have in place a very efficient disaster management system, a system which consists of various arms of the Government. It includes, for example, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, in particular the Service arms of our Armed Forces. It includes also the State Governments and there are specific disaster management units which operate at the State Government level. There are mechanisms for the release of funds instantly when such disasters strike. There is already in place a system of coordination amongst the different agencies. Also, we have people who are trained in disaster management. Perhaps not many of you know that there is actually a National Institute of Disaster Management in India, which not only looks into better methods of management of disasters but also carries out training of personnel in disaster management. So, it is precisely because (i) we had an excellent and extensive machinery in place for disaster management, (ii) we have had well-experienced and well-trained people to take care of such a disaster, (iii) we have, right from the beginning, had the confidence that we have the capabilities, that we have the resources to successfully deal with this unexpected disaster.

I think it would be fair to say that the experience of the last several days has shown that in fact India has been very successful in overcoming the consequences of this disaster. We have more or less completed Phase-I of relief; we are now going to be moving into Phase-II where there would be accent on bringing back normal life to the affected areas of the country. So, any sense that somehow there has been some lack in the manner in which India has responded to this disaster is misplaced. We have seen some reports in international press about India not accepting international assistance but somehow not being able to take care of the consequences itself. That is completely misplaced. In fact, the opposite is true. 

The other point that I would like to make is that in terms of not accepting foreign assistance – it is not that we have some kind of a dogmatic position on this – what we have stated is that as of now we feel that we have enough resources and capabilities at hand to be able to deal with this disaster. At any point of time when we feel that we could benefit by the assistance or support of friendly countries, certainly there would be no hesitation in reviewing this approach. I would also like to mention here that there are several UN agencies which are already present in India; there are several international NGOs which are present in India; and many of them are doing excellent work in carrying out relief operations in very close coordination with our local authorities. So, this is already happening. 

What we felt from the start was that with the enormity of the damage which had been suffered by some of our other friendly countries, particularly Sri Lanka, Thailand and certainly Indonesia where the scale in fact seems to be expanding everyday as more damage comes to our notice, whatever international effort is being launched - of which of course we would be a part - is perhaps better directed at those who really need the assistance the most. 

Precisely again because of our confidence in our own capabilities of dealing with this disaster we were also able to move very quickly to also extend very timely assistance to other affected countries, in particular of course our nearest neighbours Sri Lanka and Maldives. In fact, in Sri Lanka we were the first to respond virtually on the day the disaster occurred. We have quite a number of assets which are deployed both in Sri Lanka and in Maldives since the time disaster struck, in order to provide relief, in order to rescue people, in order to provide a lot of relief supplies, ferrying of supplies using aircraft, using ships. 

Later on we also extended this assistance to Indonesia where two of our Naval ships are now I think just outside Banda Aceh – one is going to be functioning as a hospital ship. We have a large number of medical teams which are working in the Maldives, in Sri Lanka. So, not only have we had the confidence that we can take care of the disaster which has struck our own shores but we were also confident that we can also extend a helping hand to our friendly neighbours. This has been, of course, very deeply appreciated not only by the countries concerned but by the international community including the United Nations. 

As you know, our External Affairs Minister is leading a delegation to Jakarta. He left last night. There is an ASEAN-sponsored international conference taking place on the Tsunami disaster and the need for international community to come up with assistance as well as coordination of the assistance which is being pledged. Of course, at this particular meeting our Minister will be setting forth our policy with regard to how we deal with this kind of a natural disaster. He will also be giving an account of what we are doing as a responsible, caring member of the international community; what we are doing to give assistance to other countries. 

I would also like to mention here that, you are probably aware of it, the United States also put together a Tsunami Core Group in order to facilitate a coordinated effort to deal with this disaster. When it was announced, there was the United States, Japan, India and Australia. Later on it was expanded to include the United Nations, Canada as well as the European Union. But the fact that India was invited to be a part of this Core Group was precisely because of the recognition that India in this region had the capabilities, had the resources, in order to help out with the relief efforts. If you look at what has happened in the past several days with regard to assistance, particularly to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, you will see that the major contributor in that respect has been India. 

This Core Group is not functioning any more because that role for coordination has now, quite appropriately, been taken over by the United Nations which is now fully engaged in terms of coordinating the relief efforts. We are, of course, extremely supportive of the UN role in this regard. 

I think I will stop here and I would request Vice Admiral Puri to give you a sense of how we have gone about responding to this crisis not only domestically but what we have been able to do in extending assistance to our friendly neighbouring countries as well. Thank you very much. 

VICE ADMIRAL RAMAN PURI: Thank you ladies and gentlemen. 

I will, in the next few minutes, try to put across to you the totality of operations that have taken place for disaster relief as a result of this terrible tragedy. I will concentrate thereafter on what we are doing for Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia. 

Indian Armed Forces are essentially running four operations simultaneously. The first one we have codenamed ‘Sea Waves’. This concerns all our islands and the mainland. The second one we have codenamed ‘Rainbow’ and it concerns the west and the East Coast of Sri Lanka. The third is ‘Castor’ which concerns the Maldives. Finally ‘Operation Gambhir’ is meant for Indonesia and it has started just yesterday. 

The number of ships keeps varying between 30 to 40 depending on the type of work that we need to do. Similarly, there is IL-76, a large aircraft which carries 30 to 35 tonnes of load, there is AN-32 which carries about 3.5 to four tones and there are the Avros, which have all been modified for airdropping. They are also in the fray. There are 16 helicopters from the IAF and about 3000 personnel involved. This is the disposition of our ships today. We are deployed all over. Some ships are going to destinations and some are coming off. Total of more than 40 ships are in movement, 31 are deployed. 

I would like to come to the distances to just explain to you the complexity that we are in. From Vizag to Banda Aceh in Indonesia the distance is 1080 km. From Chennai it is 990 km and from Cochin it is 1850 km. Distance between Mumbai and Male is 880 km, Kochi to Male is 375 km, and Kochi to Colombo is 350 and odd km. These are the ports from which various ships have sailed for these operations and these are the distances involved. Beyond that, for the operations that we are undertaking ourselves, this is the air plan for today of aircraft moving to the Islands. The distances involved from just our coast Chennai to the Islands is about 750 km. In addition, you are dealing with a coastline which is another 2200 kilometres. Just to tell you, the spread of the Islands itself from North to South is about 700 km. From Port Blair down to Campbell Bay is about 330 km. From Port Blair to Hut Bay is about a 100 km, Car Nicobar 280 km, Nancowry 425 km, and Campbell Bay 610 km. These distances are all in kilometers. 

So, we have to go to the islands and within the islands you are dealing with about 38 odd inhabited islands which are spread from North to South in this spread of about 700 km. Islands North of Port Blair are not that affected and there is no loss of life at least. In the South there has been both loss of life and the effect is very large, which you all know. 

Let me now go down to the situation that I want to explain to you. I have given you all the distances that are there. In Andaman and Nicobar as of today, the total amount of relief that we have provided is by 177 AN-32 sorties, 18 AN-32 sorties for the East Coast, 57 IL-76 sorties into the Islands and one sortie for the mainland. Dorniers have done 36 sorties in the islands, 12 sorties on the mainland. The MI-8 helicopters have done 12 sorties but now we have augmented the number of these helicopters in the islands itself to about 10 of them. We would be now increasing our sortie rates quite a lot. 

Similarly, there are 24 civil flights and 13 Avro flights that have taken place into the islands. On the mainland there have been a large number of helicopter sorties. These are sorties which have been taken up by the Air Force aircraft. Similarly, we have our troops deployed. From the ships also there has been a Sea King helicopter in operation, 4-5 Chetak helicopters in operation at a time, especially around the southern groups of islands where we have deployed them. On days there have been as many as eight Chetaks operating off these islands and embarked on ships. We have the Kamov helicopter embarked on ship which is also deployed in the islands. 

The complexity of the task is that we have communication from Port Blair down to Campbell Bay, which we have restored. Both an AN-32 aircraft can go and helicopters can go. But in the middle group of islands - which is the Nancowry group consisting of Katchall, Kamorta, Tarasa, Trinkat all these islands - there is no airfield and we have to do all relief work either by ships or by helicopters. As far as ships are concerned, the infrastructure was totally lost except at Camorta island. We have slowly brought the jetty to a usable state in Car Nicobar. There is sea transportation possible to Great Nicobar. There is otherwise, only a jetty available in the Camorta. Rest of it has to be done either off the beaches or by helicopters. So, this is the complexity of this operation. 

If I was to just tell you the amount of relief supplies that we have pumped into these islands in the last few days, there is a Brigade Headquarters and relief supplies with 400 army troops and one PA company on the islands. There are three army engineer teams working in Car Nicobar; 35 paramilitary troops which have been airlifted there; 1286 tonnes of relief load has been lifted. This includes rations, communication sets, medicines, generators, water in jerry cans, pump sets, tents, blankets and so on. Three tonnes of medicines have gone in. Thirty tonnes and 13 tonnes of food provisions from Port Blair to Car Nicobar and Campbell Bay respectively, 23 tonnes of relief material by ships to the Camorta group, an aviation fuel bowser, water bowsers, and about 50 tonnes by the Naval ships to the Little Andaman Islands have gone in. It is a massive effort. 

What have we achieved at the end of it? At the end of it, today we can say that the first phase of relief operations is over. All those who are living are in relief camps, we have concentrated them in seven relief camps starting from Car Nicobar. There are 20 of them operating. In Nicobar group of islands there are relief camps operating on Katchall island, on Tarasa island, the Nancowry island and Camorta. These are the four islands where we are operating. We have evacuated (inaudible, name of an island), we have evacuated two more islands which were Chanumla and Tillangchang. So, these three islands have been evacuated. 

In Great Nicobar again we have collected the population which was essentially living on the road from Campbell Bay down to Indira Point. It is a 49 kilometre road along which there are a number of villages like Gandhi Nagar, Shastri Nagar, Joginder Nagar, etc. We have evacuated the entire population from these villages into these camps. The fact is, about 13000 people are in camps in this manner today. Water was initially provided to them. Drinking water is still going. Local wells, springs and other sources have been found. Some of the wells which were salinated have been desalinated. Water is tested and now it has become potable. We are initially using it only for cooking purposes. Medical supplies, doctors are there in each and every one of these camps. More are going into the area. There is a team from St. John’s Ambulance Brigade of Bangalore which is in Catchalls. 

There is another team from Kolkata which is operating in Camorta. So, this way we can today say that all those who are living have got water, have got food, and have got shelter. Doctors are there and medicines are being provided. There is a hospital ship being operated by the Navy. Initially it was Madad, now Sandhayak has moved into the area. She is operating off the Camorta group of islands from where really we have only helicopter evacuation possible. It has got ICUs fitted out; it has got beds; it is a 40-bedded hospital ship. Similarly, we have flights. Casualty evacuation by air is taking place wherever it is required down to Port Blair. There are medical centers that are opened up in Car Nicobar. People are being treated in dispensaries also. So, this is what I call the first phase of operation. 

Now will come the issue of, as the Foreign Secretary said, bringing to them power, more water supply, improving their shelters, and improving the infrastructure in the islands. We have to repair the jetties so that slowly we can shift from air transportation to sea transportation. As it is a lot has taken place. Port Blair has become fully operational. So, ships from the mainland to Port Blair are moving with tonnes of supplies. To Car Nicobar we can take things by small ships now and that is a great improvement. There is a 50 kilometre road there. Three Engineer companies are operating in Car Nicobar today. They have within their own resources, light resources, opened up the road from the Air Force Station at Malacca down to the jetty which is a 12 km stretch to the water point. 

There are a lot of water-logged areas, the road had to be bypassed, there are some regions which I can show you later after this presentation, to show you what is the state of that jetty area. The jetty itself we made operational. A lot of engineering effort has gone in. Today we have heavy dozers, water bowsers, trucks, all airlifted, to be able to start rehabilitation Phase-II in Car Nicobar. Similarly, we are doing in Great Nicobar but that will take a little more time. So, this is the totality of the effort that we have put in. 

Now, let me go down to our effort in Sri Lanka. We landed at Colombo at 1700 hours on the 26th. Twenty-sixth was the day this Tsunami took place. Within hours of our getting the request, aircraft and ships had moved in. You know the distances involved. We anticipated it and we put ships out to sea that afternoon. We knew that they will be required in Andamans or wherever and we put ships out to sea. By 1700 hours, we had one Naval aircraft with medicines, medical team which landed. Two ships each, from the West Coast and the East Coast were loaded with relief supplies and sailed on 26th December for Galle and Trincomalee respectively, on the same day. 

Thereafter, a total of ten ship deployments, 20 aircraft sorties have been undertaken in Sri Lanka for ferrying 210 tonnes of relief supplies to this country. After extensive surveys, debris clearance and removal of wreckage, Indian Naval ships have operationalised the port of Galle on the 4th of January. Ships are also engaged in clearing Trincomalee harbour and Colombo harbour and providing assistance to salvage Sri Lankan Naval vessels and fishing craft in these ports. 

With regard to medical assistance, one Naval medical team was airlifted to Colombo immediately after the disaster and has been operating with Sri Lankan Army since then. One army field hospital along with nine medical officers has been airlifted to Sri Lanka by IL-76 aircraft on the 1st of January and it has established four medical camps. There are other medical camps also established where immediate medical treatment is being given and surgeries are being performed. In addition, the Indian Naval ship is operating a 40-bedded hospital with four intensive care units, pathological labs and x-ray facilities, and six medical camps at various locations in Sri Lanka. 

The Indian Army rehabilitation teams on board the ships along with Naval sailors and officers have been deployed for repair of infrastructure. These personnel have repaired a number of generators, pumps, heavy load moving equipment, and have also cleared a number of drinking water wells of contaminated water. That is the first stage of rehabilitation in which you make water available easily to the population. 

The Indian Air Force has operated a total of five MI-17 and MI-8 helicopters to Sri Lanka. Everyday they are doing two, three, sometimes four sorties. Wherever the Sri Lankan coordination team points out we are ready to go. In addition, Indian Navy is also operating detachments of two aircraft and three helicopters. These aircraft have undertaken 220 sorties and have airlifted 200 tonnes of relief material to various affected locations in Sri Lanka. So, that is the scale of effort put in to date in Sri Lanka. We are using Chetak helicopters which have come from the ships and they are operating on fields in Sri Lanka. 

I will now come to the Maldives. Here again, three Indian Naval ships from Mumbai were loaded with relief supplies and they sailed for Male on afternoon of 26th December. As soon as we got a request, within an hour our ships were at sea. One Coastguard Dornier, two IAF Avro aircraft loaded with relief supplies were also dispatched to Male on 27th December for relief operations. The Indian Armed Forces deployed a Dornier aircraft at Male to enable the Maldives Government to assess the extent of damage in various outlying islands. In addition, 30 tonnes of relief supplies have been airlifted from India by two Avro aircraft. All the three aircraft have been placed at the disposal of the Male Government for ferrying supplies and passengers to various outlying islands. You would have seen Male has got a number of atolls which need to be visited. 

Coming to ships, the Indian Navy has deployed four ships along with four helicopters for ferrying supplies and providing assistance. A maritime coordination center has been established at Male to coordinate the relief effort with the Male Government. The ships have ferried 30 tonnes of relief supplies including food, water, communication sets and medicines. The embarked helicopters have flown a total of 70 sorties to lift 20 tonnes of supplies to outlying islands and have evacuated 15 medical casualties. The Indian Naval Ships and aircraft have also been tasked for ferrying approximately 200 tonnes of relief supplies received from international aid agencies from the Hulhule airport to various outlying islands. 

To talk about the other assistance, diving ships have provided diving assistance to the Maldives Government for clearing obstructions. In addition, Naval ships and Coastguard ships - when I say Naval, Coastguards is with us - have repaired the generators and operationalised power supply in seven islands. Indian Navy is also running four medical camps at various locations and have treated about a thousand persons. 

This is the state of ships. They keep going up and down. Sometimes there are two ships, sometimes there are three, and sometimes there are four after the operations have got under way. You can see the visuals. They are generators which our ships’ crew is repairing. 

Let me now come to the last of three islands, that is, Indonesia. On a receipt of request for assistance from Indonesia the Indian Navy immediately mobilized two ships and these have reached Indonesia on the 4th January. These ships, one is a hospital with one embarked helicopter have reached Indonesia today. The ships are carrying 40 tonnes of relief supplies and three tonnes of medical stores. The ships are being deployed off the west coast of Indonesia. They have already disembarked their 40 tonnes of relief supplies by these two Naval ships on these ports. That is in the process of finishing off today. So, that is the effort that has gone into these islands. As and when requests have come, we have responded to them within hours to all these requests. Of course, the distance is large and so the ships have taken their time sailing but otherwise the reaction from us was instantaneous. So has been the reaction from us for our own islands. 

In our own islands, I forgot to mention, apart from the fact that we have come to the islands which we have vacated, we have still not given up hope. We have one company of 7 JAK Rifles in Tarasa looking for survivors; one company of 7 JAK Rifles in Trinkat looking for survivors. A company ex 154 Infantry Battalion, Territorial Army is deployed in the Campbell Bay. One column of 5/5 GR is deployed at Chanumla. Initially we went, hovered around these islands. The natural reaction is that if there is anybody there he will come and howl that he would need some help. That is how we located many of the survivors. We landed wherever we could. We made temporary helipads wherever there was a necessity. For example, off Campbell Bay, off Shastri Nagar we had to develop a helipad of our own. Some of the ship’s crew members went with instruments and then they cleared that helipad. So, this is a large effort in all these islands these troops are putting in. Sandhayak is looking for survivors in that island of Little Nicobar. Even in the islands we have vacated, we are still looking for survivors. 

On the west coast of Great Nicobar Island some of the Nicobarese have come up yesterday to say that they cannot find their kith and kin. We have brought a number of them but they still want to see for themselves. So, a ship has sailed with these Nicobarese to the west coast. Air effort is being provided and they are now going into the jungles to try and find out if anybody is surviving. But that is why I will say about 98 per cent of our location of survivors in the southern group is over. They are all in camps. One or two persons we may still find and we hope we do. 

Thank you. 

QUESTION: How has been the Core Group formed to coordinate relief efforts working? 
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Right from the beginning, the intention of this Core Group which was set up on the initiative of the US was to initiate a quick response to the disaster by mobilizing the coordinated resources of the countries which had major capabilities and assets available in the area. Once the United Nations came in - as I mentioned to you the United Nations also became a member of the Core Group, later the European Union and Canada also came in - the focus really shifted to the operational side. This particular Group was at the senior officials’ level. My counterparts were Under Secretary Grossman, for example, of US and also the Permanent Secretary in the Australian Foreign Office. So, this was initially a Group which was trying to generate an immediate response through the efforts of the countries which were regarded as having major capabilities deployed in the area. 

Once these efforts got under way and we were constantly in touch. We were teleconferencing every morning. From the point of view of operationalising the assistance naturally this was not something that the Foreign Secretaries could do. This had to be done at the ground level. This is where by general consent it was decided that the United Nations and its Disaster Relief Organisations are the best placed in order to carry this operational phase of relief. So, by common consent we decided that it was no longer necessary for us to have these daily teleconferencing sessions. But we are in touch with one another and if there is any information to be shared or any coordination to be done at our level, this is always possible through telephone calls that we make to each other. 

QUESTION: Is India also giving relief supplies to LTTE controlled areas in Sri Lanka? 
FOREIGN SECRETARY: We are making available all the relief supplies to the Government of Sri Lanka. Government of Sri Lanka of course is deciding where these relief supplies go. We understand that these relief supplies are also going to those affected areas. 

QUESTION: There have been reports about deployment of American troops for relief effort in Sri Lanka. What is your reaction? 
FOREIGN SECRETARY: There is a disaster and there is requirement for assistance. The Indians are already deployed there in fairly large strength. If the United States of America believes it can contribute to that effort, they are most welcome. Whatever is required in terms of coordination, of course that has to be ensured. What is the extent of American support required is something that can be determined on the basis of consultation amongst Sri Lankans, Indians and the Americans. I do not think that there is any kind of misunderstanding or misapprehension in this respect. 

QUESTION: …Inaudible…(on Core Group efforts) 
FOREIGN SECRETARY: This is a disaster of such a scale that perhaps whatever assistance is possible should be provided. The question really is how efficient the delivery is. We should not get into each other’s way. That is why coordination is required. That is why we need to be in touch with one another. I would like to say here that in fact there has been very good and close coordination with the Americans. As I mentioned to you, I myself was teleconferencing every morning not only with my American counterparts but with other members of the Group. Currently the effort is being coordinated through the United Nations as well as by that Group. So, we do not have any problem in that respect. 

QUESTION: My question is to Vice Admiral Puri. Is there any island which the Navy has not been able to visit so far? 
VICE ADMIRAL: All inhabited islands have been visited; there is no island that is not visited. The southern group is really the area of interest. I mentioned to you, we have evacuated some islands. The islands of Chanumla, Trinkat, Tillangchang, Pulomilo and Kondul, all these have been evacuated into seven areas where we are holding all the survivors. I named the seven areas where we are holding these camps. There are 13000 odd people in these camps. There are 47 camps, 20 of them in Car Nicobar itself. I have all the figures. When I said 98 per cent of all the survivors, we believe that we have got others there, but these are thick jungles. It takes a foot patrol. With all the water logging that is there in a number of islands you will cover no more than two kilometers in a day. That is the type of terrain you are going through. There are no roads. If I had the time I could actually show you the type of breaches on the roads that have taken place. There is no road available to go. Engineering effort is being put to make roads in Car Nicobar. Bridges have been now put. I think in about four days’ time we will have bridging work going on over there. No island is cut off.

QUESTION: Is there any delineation of areas where the countries providing relief like US, India etc are operating? 
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Number one, there is no formal delineation of areas of operation. It just so happens that because we are in close proximity to Sri Lanka and Maldives, much of the relief effort in these two countries has been extended by India. But as has been also mentioned to you, we also have a couple of ships which are now operating off the coast of Indonesia. So, there is no formal kind of division of labour in this respect. There are also relief supplies coming into Sri Lanka for example from UN agencies. I think recently a flight carrying relief material has come in from Canada too. So, there is no such division of labour. As far as high-level meeting in Sri Lanka is concerned, this is a continuing exercise. There is almost a daily review of what the situation is, where are the areas where greater effort is required. In accordance with the requirements which are posted to us by the Sri Lankan authorities, there are ships which are deployed there, or the medical teams which are deployed there. Then they redeploy themselves in order to meet those latest contingencies. 

QUESTION: Has there been a recent, in past two or three days, increase in the relief being provided to Sri Lanka? 
FOREIGN SECRETARY: There is a natural increase in this because you are dealing with a situation where every day brings new challenges. And you are not only now looking at relief and rescue, you are also looking at the initial stages of reconstruction. For example, a mention was made of the harbour in Trincomalee. These have been blocked by debris. So, a lot of work has to be done for debris clearance. So, the deployment of personnel, or deployment of teams is really commensurate with the requirements which are there. 

QUESTION: …Inaudible…(on current relief operations and coordination with UN) 
VICE ADMIRAL: I will come to the question posed to me. At this point in time, our thrust is on what I told you. Simultaneously now we have moved in planning teams to each of these islands. The planning for providing immediate power is over. We know exactly what generators can go down to which island with which equipment. We know all that now. There are 30 generators brought in which are operating in Car Nicobar group, which have energized supply to the relief camps, the exchange over there, the telecommunications to be established, etc. That is being done. Similarly, water points are being run with power that we are providing. Next is the islands down below. In Car Nicobar also we have partially restored supplies and more facilities are being restored. In the Campbell Bay itself we have found that we have been able to restore some supply, plus mobile generators are being moved in. In the Nicobar group of islands everything will have to go by helicopter and that effort has already started. So, we hope that in the next two-three days every relief camp will have power. We have a satisfaction level of about 75 per cent just now. The other 25 per cent will come.

In the north Andaman group, the power supply available to Port Blair is being stepped up everyday. More and more power generation is being brought online. I think it was 11 MW which is going up to 16 MW. So, this will happen. Similarly, in Rangat the power supply has been restored, whatever was there is there. My point is, this is an ongoing effort as far as power is concerned. Next stage will be building up these jetties, building up the roads, building up schools, etc. Nothing is there. That is going to take us sometime but deep planning effort is there and I think plan will not take too long. That is not my Department and I would not like to commit on when this will happen. But all I can say is we are involved in deep planning effort to restore infrastructure. That work has already started. 

FOREIGN SECRETARY: Let me try and answer the other part. As I mentioned, we are making virtually a daily assessment of what are the requirements. Generally speaking, what is happening is that the relief is coming winding down. Whatever supplies have to be brought in have been brought in like medicines, food and water. Now you are slowly moving into a phase of repair, reconstruction and rehabilitation. So, this is a continuing exercise. At this point of time it is very difficult to say that at this particular point we are going to cut off. 

In terms of whether or not the Indian effort will be replaced by the UN effort, I do not think that is really the intention. The intention of the United Nations is to get assistance from various sources. It does not always have assets of its own. So, it is dependent upon assets of other member-countries. So, in terms of whatever assets we are able to deploy, if we are able to do this then to that extent the UN’s responsibility becomes less so that it is able to focus attention on where it is really required. So, it is not as if we are looking at a phase where we can now pack our bags and leave and the United Nations has to come in. This is going to be a continuing exercise. As you are aware, we have announced, for example, for Sri Lanka a total assistance of about Rs.100 crore. Part of it has been used for relief. I am certain that in the days and weeks to come, much of that assistance will also be required for the very urgent rehabilitation and repair work which needs to be done. 

QUESTION: When do you think, you would be able to call off the search operations? 
VICE ADMIRAL: I think we will continue till we have the slightest hope. So, by sending some foot patrol into these islands where there are thick jungles, we will try and scan through. I think it will take us about a week more. But we do not think we will find too many people. That is how I would see it.
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