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From the Field
Relief Workers' Report

UNITED SIKHS, an international non-profit human development NGO, is currently working to provide humanitarian aid to victims of the Asian tsunami disaster. Current UNITED SIKHS projects include relief efforts in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nicobar Islands, South India, and Aceh, Indonesia.

Great Nicobar Status Report 2
(Jan 16)
By Esher Singh, Project Leader, UNITED SIKHS GHANAIA Tsunami Relief in South India

Yesterday we had a talk with Mr. S S Barnala, Governor of Tamil Nadu, South India. He was very anxious to have reports everyday.

It is very important to know the geography of the Great Nicobar island which has a habitat at the lower end of the hilly area towards the costal side, which is completely damaged and the sea water has taken over. It is very difficult to approach by the coastal road the far off places where the actual habitat was/is existing. Joginder Nagar is 11-31 kms away from the central point of Campbell Bay.

After mid-April till December this island will be totally cut off from the rest of the world. The air strip is only about 1 km long and is under the direct control of the Airforce. There is only one Civilian Helipad.

People here had industries, agriculture, shops and big houses as well. Now there is nothing. Huge machines, trucks, cars, bicycles are buried in sand, rusting and many machines have been washed away into the ocean.

The Gurdwara which is in the center of Campbell Bay is completely damaged even though there was a huge wall 5 kms from the Gurdwara. The back waters hit the area and caused extensive damage. One can imagine where there were no walls to stop the water what must have been the intensity of the waves and the damage they caused.

This area between 11-31 kms is totally exposed to the sea and it is here that maximum damage has taken place.


There is risk of disease and malnutrition. Therefore it is crucial for us to set up langar for all the islanders. SGPC has agreed to ship grain and pulses to the island. Mr Barnala is facilitating its transport to the island. We need the supplies without delay. We have to ensure that the supplies do not get stuck in some adminstrative dark hole.

The conditions in the 13 relief camps are very bad. 600 people sharing one bathroom facility. Therefore, housing has to be in place before the monsoons in April. Everything that needs to be done and all supplies have to be shipped in before April. Time and Tide are against us.

It is important to set up a small sawmill. A few good cutters, which are operated by the battery, should be immediately put into operation for cutting out wooden planks from the trees. A hardware requirement of aluminum doors and windows and various types of nails, instruments are required immediately at the Gurdwara Premises with a UNITED SIKHS shed that will have overall supervision over it. A team of carpenters should be stationed here as the government has relaxed the orders to cut wood from the forest to reconstruct the houses for rehabilitation which is a positive sign for the people who wish to settle here.

Machines especially Hitachi made wood cutters should be imported. Vehicle for transporting the wooden planks is required immediately to be stationed at this place.

About 50 bicycles are required for the labourers. A Project Manager should have a motor cycle. Today in the morning I traveled for about 14 kms on bicycle to assess the damages and know the ground situation. The roads were in very bad condition in fact there were no roads. I couldn't travel for more than 13 kms due to the conditions of the roads affected by the Tsunami. I had to come back but I managed to take a number of photos of the places struck by the disaster.

It is important that the higher authorities and the Ministry make available a helicopter for the civilians to assess the damage to the property or should allow a private helicopter to be stationed especially for accessing this island.

Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr Barnala has promised to come to this island . The Sikhs of the World should come together for compensating the victims of the Tsunami.

There are two different views of the settlers here at Campbell Bay. One, those who want to resettle in Punjab and the others who want to resettle in the same place. The people who want to settle here are those who had their lands surrounded by the hills but people who want to migrate are the ones whose lands have been washed away by the waves. The list is being prepared and will be made available as soon as we get it. We need an expert team which can look at revenue records of the island for submitting their legal claims for which no one should be barred from claiming on legal grounds.

UNITED SIKHS will do a survey of each family's needs and plans and submit a report of findings and recommendations. Our team of volunteers will conduct this survey.

Yesterday Mr Barnala spoke to the Lieutenant Governor of Port Blair for airlifting Kulwant Singh (of the Guru Gobind Singh Study Circle) and me to Port Blair. I am waiting for the call from the army for air lifting us. We are going out for supplies.

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