Many missing, few bodies found

PORT BLAIR (India): Thousands of Andaman and Nicobar islanders are missing, feared killed by last week's deadly tsunami, but few bodies have been located so far, Indian officials on the remote archipelago said. 

Only about three dozen of the more than 550 islands in the group, a strategic military zone, are inhabited. Several are home to primitive tribes including some who subsist on hunting with spears, bows and arrows and on fishing and gathering fruit and roots. The fate of many of the tribals is unknown. 

A top Home Ministry official expressed concern about the endangered Shompen tribe who live in the badly hit southernmost island of Great Nicobar. 

“We have no news of them. No news,” A.K. Rastogi told a news conference in New Delhi late on Saturday. The Shompens number close to 400. 

Officials said 5,400 people were missing across the island group, most of them feared dead. Aid workers said the death toll could be much higher because they had so far been unable to reach the interior of many islands. 

The head of the Indian army, Gen N.C. Vij, said the civil administration had told him there could be more than 1,000 bodies scattered across Car Nicobar island, which bore the brunt of the huge waves, but barely 120 had been disposed of so far. 

“The situation in Campbell Bay and Great Nicobar is very grim,” a senior administration official said. 

“Already, a local administration official has been roughed up badly as very little or no supplies have reached there since the quake struck. 

“Seven to eight hundred people from a settlement called '30km East', which is about 50km south of Campbell Bay, have taken refuge on a hill,” said the official, who asked not to be named. 

“Absolutely nothing has reached them.” 

Campbell Bay is the main town in Great Nicobar which has over 7,000 inhabitants, a naval base and an airstrip. – Reuters  

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