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All primitive tribes safe

By Suresh Nambath

PORT BLAIR, DEC. 30. After the Coast Guard carried out an aerial survey, and the civil administration did its own study, all primitive tribes in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were certified to be safe. A Coast Guard pilot today spotted the Sentinalese in the North Sentinalese island during one of several low-flying sorties. The Sentinalese had actually thrown stones at the aircraft.

The Director General of the Coast Guard, Vice Admiral Arun Kumar Singh, dismissed as "rubbish" reports that the primitive tribes were affected by the tsunami. The Negrito tribes were in the Andamans, which did not see the kind of devastation witnessed in the Nicobar islands.

The tribes in the Nicobar islands were the Nicobarese, Shompens and the Holschu, who were all Mongoloids. The Shompens and the Holschu had not reported casualties. The Nicobarese, which were a majority tribe, had however suffered heavy casualties. But Vice Admiral Singh, while pointing out that the Nicobarese were of mixed stock, said it could therefore be asserted that indigenous tribes were safe.

However, he refused to rule out casualties by saying that he could only state there had been no casualties.

The Lieutenant Governor, Ram Kapse, addressing a joint press conference with Vice Admiral Singh, said the Great Andamanese had not been affected by the tsunami. The Inspector-General of Police said the Jarawas would have normally approached mainlanders if they had been in need of food or medical help. As they had not done so far, they could be assumed to be safe.

Mr. Kapse said Onges in Little Andaman were not among the casualties. None from the tribe was among those who were injured in that island and evacuated to Port Blair, he added.

To questions, the Lt. Governor said he would take a decision tomorrow on requests from international aid agencies for being allowed to do relief work in the Nicobar islands. He had received a communication in this regard from Oxfam only this evening, and he would have to discuss the issue with his officials.

Mr. Kapse said only 400 bodies had been found. He put the number of people `missing' at 3,000. Asked about several thousand `unaccounted' people, he said many people who had moved deeper into the forest when the tsunami struck had since returned. He said he was hopeful that the other `unaccounted' people too would return.

Vice Admiral Singh said the Coast Guard had so far rescued or evacuated 669 people. The Coast Guard was involved in relief operations from the sea off the mainland coast. It had also helped the Maldives in relief work.

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