13 January 2005                 1 Magh (Samvat 536 Nanakshahi)





Message just in from UNITED SIKHS project Leader in South India, Esher Singh in Port Blair ( Andaman Islands): "By Guruji's Grace we have been able to get on a flight to Campbell Bay (Nicobar island). We fly out first thing tomorrow morning.

"The Sikhs we met at Port Blair, who had managed to leave Nicobar Island, have not been taken care of. All the local relief camps are full. The administration has stopped shipping victims. The air force ships and planes have stopped taking people since yesterday. The situation is very grim. Rest we will update later.

Tomorrow, Sikh organisations will be making the first contact with Nicobar Sikhs since the Tsunami disaster on 26th December 2004.

We do not have a satellite phone. Therefore, we will not be making contact with you until we return to the mainland. But have no fear we will be in Chardi Kala."

PORT BLAIR, Andaman Islands, SE India - After assessing the situation in Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu,  and providing short term relief operations in the neglected villages in the South India, UNITED SIKHS' South India team makes a breakthrough and will fly to Campbell Bay, Great Nicobar Island, tomorrow to assess the situation and provide relief in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean. See Team Leaders detailed report at http://www.unitedsikhs.org/ghanaia/fieldreport.html

UNITED SIKHS will be joined by Ravinder Singh of Khalsa Aid and Kulwant Singh of Sri Guru Gobibnd Singh Study Circle (Bombay). The Trio who are heading for Campbell Bay tomorrow had to fight tooth and nail for tomorrow's flight. After spending half a day at Port Blair, the team found out that Campbell Bay, where a lot of damage has occurred, is accessible only through the army or air force. It is 300 nautical miles from Port Blair. It takes 2-3 days for a boat to get from Port Blair to Campbell Bay. According to their findings, there is only one flight that transports relief material to Campbell Bay and the flight could take only one person along. There were 5 organizations including UNITED SIKHS negotiating access. There was also no assurance of a return date. Most flight seats are being used by MPs, MLAs and government officials. Ultimately, in Bhai Esher Singh's words, "The Guru made way" for his servers and all three members of the team were able to get tickets through a private arrangement with the Civil Aviation Authority which will take  them to Campbell Bay - to the center of the Tsunami destruction, which is merely 60km from the epicentre of the Tsunami in Aceh, Indonesia.


There are more than 350 Sikh families in Campbell Bay out of which approx 70-75 have disappeared. Some families have come to Port Blair and are putting up in a gurdwara where there isn't enough care available. The administrators from the affected areas have already moved to Port Blair.


The initial assessment of Bhai Esher Singh and his teammates upon reaching Port Blair yesterday is that there is extreme shortage of relief supplies in the islands which have restricted access to them.  The team has found that government administrators are still in confusion and limited in their efforts to get relief to victims in a timely manner.  He added that the Port Blair got its first relief flight 70 hrs after the disaster and people are in bad shape. The relief camps at Port Blair were full and they met few families who were crying; they had lost everything and yet they were refused to be admitted in the camp since it was full.


In Bhai Esher Singh's words "The officials' attitude here is unhelpful. The people who came here have not been taken care of. All the local relief camps are full. The administration has stopped shipping victims in Andaman and Nicobar. The air force ships and planes have stopped taking people since yesterday. The situation is very grim"


Whilst UNITED SIKHS Project leader Esher Singh has headed for the next mission on the islands, the rest of the Team works in a coordinated effort with other Sikh groups, to deliver immediate services to victims without duplicating effort and expenditures. Bhai Esher Singh and his UNITED SIKHS team had by now been phenomenal in banding up with other Sikh organizations, providing short term relief in 4 villages in Cuddalore, adopting one village and starting rehabilitation work there. The trip to Campbell Bay was on cards from the beginning, as UNITED SIKHS relief efforts are targetted at neglected pockets of people to provide them not only short term relief but also long term projects for re-building their lives.


UNITED SIKHS will update you as we receive reports. for Relief Team updates see: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/ghanaia/fieldreport.html



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