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Kiwi helps clean up in Andaman Islands

Tue, 11 Jan 2005

Kiwi helps clean up in Andaman Islands

New Zealander Alex Snary, who is working with World Vision in the Andaman Islands just north of Sumatra, says the unofficial death toll for the Andaman, Nicobar and other Indian islands is estimated at 20,000.

Speaking from Port Blair, where he is based, Mr Snary says the destruction is indescribable. There are full sized ocean-going fishing boats upended on the jetty. The physical impact of the tsunami, especially in a country so close to the epicentre, is just incredible

Mr Snary is working with thousands of displaced people from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Approximately 2000 from the southern Nicobar Islands don't want to return and have relatives on the mainland of India, where they may be repatriated.

People are still very traumatised. In the week that I've been here, I've experienced about 100 tremors or aftershocks, and the country is so low-lying, only 12m at the highest point

Whole villages have gone, and the topography of the islands has changed, the shoreline has changed and whole islands have broken in two. All of this makes repatriation incredibly difficult. And the refugees themselves are asking, "How are we going to find land to go back to?'"

One man said to me, "We've gone back 50 years in five minutes; 50 years of development infrastructure.' We can't even comprehend that

Alex Snary says the Indian Government has airlifted over 100 tonnes of basic supplies into the Andamans for the relief camps which have been set up by local NGOs, including World Vision India. However, a lot of things are still needed, especially for women and children: hygiene kits, cotton, clothes, sanitary pads, nappies, school uniforms for displaced children who want to go to school Mr Snary says World Vision will be airlifting in these specialty relief goods over the next few days.

People are still coming in to Port Blair from the jungle where they've been living on coconut and sleeping on banana leaves, too scared to return to the coastland because of the tsunami.

World Vision India's initial distribution of basic goods will carry on for two weeks and then they'll set in place a 90-day programme of relief and rehabilitation.

To donate to World Vision's Tsunami Relief Appeal, please phone 0800 80 2000 or visit the website www.worldvision.org.nz

ENDS

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