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Andaman & Nicobar Islands

Indian ships, aircraft widen search for missing Malaysian aircraft to Bay of Bengal

India has widened the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft, which disappeared from the radars early on Saturday while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people board, to the Bay of Bengal at the request of the Malaysian government.
 
India has widened the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft, which disappeared from the radars early on Saturday while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people board, to the Bay of Bengal at the request of the Malaysian government.
 
An official press release said here today that the Malaysian authorities had requested for the extension of the search to the Bay of Bengal in area of about 9000 sq km (15 km x 600 km).
 
"This area is approximately 900 km due west of Port Blair. Search in this area would be undertaken by the resources of Eastern Naval Command," it said.
 
Earlier, the Government had deployed assets of the Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard and Indian Air Force in a coordinated search of the area in South Andaman Sea for the missing airliner, which also had five Indians and a Canadian of Indian origin among its passengers.
 
Indian Navy has been nominated as the lead service for the coordination of the operation. The joint effort is being coordinated from Maritime Operations Centre of the Indian Navy in New Delhi.
 
The release said specific areas had been allocated by the Malaysian authorities for search by Indian ships and aircraft. Presently, two ships of Indian Navy, INS Saryu and INS Kumbhir, are combing the designated areas in South Andaman Sea.
Hunt for missing jet spreads to Indian Ocean
 
INS Kesari has replaced INS Kumbhir at around 1500h today for the search as it is also carrying an integral helicopter.  In addition, two Coast Guard vessels are also carrying out search along the coastline. Two Dornier aircraft of Indian Navy and Coast Guard are also carrying out aerial search in the vicinity of the Andaman coastline.
 
The Joint Operations Room at Port Blair has been activated to monitor the progress of the search operations. The Commander-in-Chief Andaman and Nicobar Command has been nominated as the Overall Force Commander of the Indian Forces.
 
 
The Boeing B777-200 ER aircraft, operating flight MH370, was reported missing off the Vietnamese coast around 0240 hours Malaysian time on Saturday. 
 
The plane had departed from Kuala Lumpur at 1241 Saturday morning and was scheduled to land at Beijing International Airport at 6.30 am local Beijing time on the same day.
 
Over the past five days, a lot of information has been thrown up, but most of them have turned out to be false leads and a massive search operation, involving ships and aircraft from several countries, has not found any trace of the missing aircraft. India is the latest country to have joined the search efforts in its territorial waters.
 
Malaysian police have said they are looking at all kinds of possibilities, including terrorism, hijacking, sabotage, mechanical failure and passengers or crew members with personal or psychological problems.
 
The airline has deployed teams of caregivers in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, consisting of its trained staff and volunteers from NGOs to take care of families of the passengers and crew of the aircraft.
 
Over the past four days, the search and rescue teams have expanded the scope of their operations beyond the flight path to the West Peninsula of Malaysia at the Straits of Malacca. 
 
"The authorities are looking at a possibility of an attempt made by MH370 to turn back to Subang. All angles are being looked at. We are not ruling out any possibilities," the airline had said in a statement on Tuesday.
 
The last known position of MH370 before it disappeared off the radar was 065515 North (longitude) and 1033443 East (latitude).
 
The search and rescue mission has been joined by teams from countries such as Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines, the United States of America and now India.
 
Apart from the search in the sea, search on land in between these areas is also being conducted.
 
The airline said the aircraft, was carrying a total of 239 people, comprising 227 passengers (including two infants) and 12 members of crew. 
 
According to the manifest, the Indians on the flight were identified as: Mr Vinod Kolekar, 59; Ms Chetana Kolekar, 55; Mr Swanand Kolekar, 23; Ms Chandrika Sharma, 51; and Mr Kranti Shirsath, 44. The list also includes a Canadian of Indian origin, Mr Muktesh Mukherjee, 42.
 
The passengers are of 14 different nationalities. All crew on board are Malaysians.
 
The passengers include 153 from China/Taiwan (including one infant), 38 from Malaysia, 5 Indians, 7 Indonesians, 6 Australians, four from France, three (including an infant) from the United States, two each from Ukraine, Canada and New Zealand, and one each from Russia, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria.
 
The flight was piloted by Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a Malaysian aged 53 with total flying hours of 18,365hours. He joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981. First officer, Fariq Ab.Hamid, a Malaysian, 27, has total flying hours of 2,763 hours. He joined Malaysia Airlines in 2007.
 
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The families of passengers may contact +603 7884 1234 (Kuala Lumpur) / +8610 6437 6249 (Beijing), the airline said.
 
Among the latest theories is one that suggests that the aircraft could have been deliberately flown across the Malay peninsula towards the Andaman Islands by someone with aviation training, hundreds of km from its intended flight path.
 
Malaysia Airlines did not give out any new information today, except to say that it would continue to cooperate with the search and rescue mission being coordinated by the Department of Civil Aviation under the Ministry of Transport.
 
"Malaysia Airlines is fully aware of the on-going media speculations and we have nothing further to add to the information we have already provided," it said.
 
"The aircraft is still missing, and the search area is expanding," Malaysia's acting Minister of Transport Hishamuddin Hussein told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today.
 
"We are now pushing further into the South China Sea, and further into Indian Ocean," he said.
 
Mr Hussein said as many as 57 ships and 48 aircraft from 13 countries were involved in the search efforts. "Our priority remains finding the plane," he said.
 
He said investigating teams would not release any information until it had been properly verified and corroborated.
 
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Congress snatches Andaman and Nicobar seat from BJP

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Congress candidate Kuldeep Rai Sharma snatched the Lok Sabha seat from the BJP by humbling its candidate Vishal Jolly with a 1,407-vote margin in the vote count on Thursday.
 
Sharma got 95,308 votes, while Jolly had to be content with 93,901.
 
BJP's Bishnu Pada Roy had won the seat in 2014.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Magnitude 5.8 earthquake jolts Andaman Islands region

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An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale, jolted the Andaman Islands region early this morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 13.9°N and longitude 93.0°E, occurred at 0609 hours at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin said.
 
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Minor earthquuake shakes Nicobar Islands region

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale, shook the Nicobar Islands region in the early hours of today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 7.4°N and longitude 94.2°E, occurred at 0204 hours at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin said.
 
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Minor earthquake shakes Nicobar Islands region

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale, shook the Nicobar Islands region in the early hours of today.
 
A bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 9.3°N and longitude 92.9°E, occurred at 0020 hours at a focal depth of 10 km.
 
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Two moderate earthquakes jolt Nicobar Islands region

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Two earthquakes of moderate intensity jolted the Nicobar Islands region in the early hours of today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The first quake, measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale, occurred at 0322 hours and  had its epicentre at latitude 7.7°N and longitude 94.3°E, with a focal depth of 10 km.
 
The second tremor, of magnitude 5.1, occurred five minutes later with its epicentre at latitude 7.7°N and longitude 94.3°E at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Minor earthquakes shake Andaman and Nicobar Islands regions

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale, shook the Nicobar Islands region in the early hours of today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 7.3°N and longitude 94.3°E, occurred at 0213 hours at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin said.
 
Later, at 0432 hours, another mild earthquake, measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale, was recorded in the Andaman Islands region.
 
The tremor, which had its epicentre at latitude 14.2°N and longitude 94.1°E, occurred at a focal depth of 10 km,  the bulletin added.
 
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Moderate earthquake shakes Andaman Islands region

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An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale, shook the Andaman Islands region this morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 13.2°N and longitude 95.4°E, occurred at 0724 hours at a focal depth of 10 km.
 
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20 tremors jolt Nicobar Islands region in space of ten and a half hours

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As many as 20 earthquakes of slight to moderate intensity, ranging in magnitude from 4.5 to 5.5 on the Richter scale, shook the Nicobar Islands region in the space of about ten and a half hours today, the India Meteorlogical Department (IMD) said.
 
The first tremor, measuring 4.9, with its epicentre at latitude 7.7°N and longitude 94.4°E, occurred at 0514 hours at a focal depth of 10 km.
 
This was followed by a series of 19 more quakes in roughly the same area, with  the last, measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale, recorded at 1544 hours, with its epicentre at latitude 7.4°N and longitude 94.1°E and a focal depth of 4.8.
 
The strongest of the tremors was of magnitude 5.5. It had its epicentre at latitude 7.5°N and longitude 94.2°E, and occurred at 1341 hours at a focal depth of 10 km.
 
One of the other 19 quakes was of magnitude 5.2, two were of magnitude 5, four of 4.9, six of magnitude 4.8, one of 4.7, one of 4.6 and four of magnitude 4.5.
 
No loss of life or property was reported from anywhere in the region, which is an earthquake-prone area.
 
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Two moderate earthquakes shake Andaman Islands region

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Two earthquakes of moderate intensity, both measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale, shook the Andaman Islands region ten minutes apart this evening, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The first quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 14.2°N and longitude 92.9°E, occurred at 1659 hours at a focal depth of 10 km.
 
The second tremor had its epicentre at latitude 14.0°N and longitude 93.1°E, and occurred at 1709 hours at a depth of 60 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Nirav Modi held in London, in police custody

Nirav Modi. Image from Nirav Modi group's Facebook page.
Nirav Modi. Image from Nirav Modi group's Facebook page.
Fourteen months after he fled India, fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi has been arrested in London in connection with the Rs 13,500 crore PNB fraud case and was sent to police custody till March 29 after being denied bail.
 
The 48-year-old businessman was arrested from Holborn on Tuesday afternoon on behalf of Indian authorities and was produced before a judge at the Westminster Magistrates Court on Wednesday.
 
He was denied bail and will stay in custody until the next hearing on March 29.
 
According to informed sources, the Westminster court in its lengthy hearing observed that Nirav Modi should be kept in Metropolitan Police custody due to his involvement in fraud of high value funds and access to means of escape. 
 
The Police made the arrest seven days after the Westminster Court issued an arrest warrant against Nirav Modi who left India days before the scam came to light in January 2018. 
 
The court had issued arrest warrant after UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid referred to India's extradition request for Nirav Modi.
 
The Interpol had issued a Red Corner Notice against Nirav Modi in July 2018 at the request of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). 
 
The businessman's whereabouts were a mystery as he had been spotted in New York, Hong Kong and other cities. Along with his uncle Mehul Choksi of Gitanjali Group, Nirav Modi left the country before the CBI formally started investigating the PNB scam.
 
The ED had on May 24 and 26 last year filed chargesheets against both men. Non-bailable warrants were also issued against them.
 
The development came days after the The Telegraph newspaper in Britain claimed that Nirav Modi was spotted in London.
 
He was said to be living in a three-bedroom flat, occupying half the floor of the landmark Centre Point tower block, the daily reported. 
 
It claimed Nirav Modi was involved in a new diamond business, run from an office in Soho, just a few hundred yards from his apartment. The new business was incorporated in May 2018, it said.
 
An extradition request against him had been pending before the UK authorities since September last year.
 
The ED on February 26 attached Rs 147 crore worth of property of Nirav Modi and his associate companies in connection with the PNB case.
 
IANS
 

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33rd India-Indonesia Coordinated Patrol commences at Port Blair

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Indonesian Naval Ship KRI Sultan Thaha Syaifuddin and Maritime Patrol Aircraft CN-235 led by Cmde Dafit Santoso arrived here today for the opening ceremony of the 33rd edition of the India-Indonesia Coordinated Patrol (IND-INDO CORPAT) to be held from March 19 to April 4.
 
Indonesian Ambassador Shidharto Raza Suryodipuro will also be here to attend the opening ceremony to be held on March 20-21. The Indian delegation is led by the senior officer from the Indian Navy, Commodore Ashutosh Ridhorkar, Naval Component Commander, Andaman and Nicobar Command.
 
The ship and aircraft from both the countries will undertake patrolling on the respective sides of 236 nautical miles long International Maritime Boundary line. The patrolling would be conducted in three phases from March 22-31.
 
This will be followed by a Closing Ceremony at Belawan, Indonesia, which is scheduled from April 1-4.
 
The IND-INDO CORPAT series of bilaterals seek to underscore India’s peaceful presence and solidarity with friendly maritime neighbour countries to ensure good order in the maritime domain, consolidate interoperability and strengthen existing bonds of friendship between India and Indonesia, an official press release said.
 
During the stay in Port Blair harbour, various activities such as official calls, formal reception on board ship, sporting fixtures between both navies, ship open to visitors and professional interactions have been planned.          
 
Indian Naval assets have been increasingly deployed in recent times to address the maritime concerns on the region. In addition, as part of the Indian Government’s vision of SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region), the Indian Navy has also been involved in assisting countries in the Indian Ocean Region with EEZ Surveillance, Search and Rescue, and other capacity-building and capability-enhancement activities.
 
The 33rd IND-INDO CORPAT, also coinciding with 70 years of India-Indonesia diplomatic ties, will contribute towards the Indian Navy’s efforts to consolidate inter-operability and forge strong bonds of friendship across the seas, the release added.
 
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Minor earthquake shakes Andaman Islands region

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale, shook the Andaman Islands region early this morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The  quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 11.9°N and longitude 93.6°E, occurred at 0644 hours at a focal depth of 95 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Minor earthquake shakes Nicobar Islands region

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale, shook the Nicobar Islands region early this morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 7.4°N and longitude 94.5°E, occurred at 0530 hours at a focal depth of 94 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Minor earthquake recorded in Nicobar Islands region

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale, shook the Nicobar Islands region in the early hours of today.
 
A bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 6.8°N and longitude 94.5°E, occurred at 0104 hours at a focal depth of 48 km.
 
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Rajnath Singh chairs fifth meeting of Island Development Agency

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Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh chaired the fifth meeting of the Island Development Agency (IDA) here on Tuesday at which the  progress made under the programme for "Holistic Development of Islands" was reviewed.
 
An official press release said bids for private sector participation in three tourism-based projects have already been invited by the Andaman & Nicobar Administration. 
 
They include eco-tourism projects in Smith Island and Long island and tent city project in Aves Island. Bids will be invited shortly for one more project in Neil Island of Andaman & Nicobar.
 
Three projects in Lakshadweep have been identified for issue of bids. They include tourism projects in the islands of Kadmat, Minicoy and Suheli Cheriyakara. Environmental Clearance (EC), Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Clearance and all other clearances required for these projects are being obtained upfront, on priority, to attract more number of reputed bidders, the release said.
 
The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce has issued a notification extending tax incentives for investments made in manufacturing and service sector in islands of Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep. 
 
"Expeditious implementation of the above mentioned projects will provide high economic return to the private sector, satisfactory jobs and additional income to the islanders and enhanced revenue to the Government - a win-win situation for all. Above all, stability of the island eco-system will be maintained with effective execution of well-planned environmental safeguards," the release said.
 
A detailed presentation was made by CEO, NITI Aayog highlighting the current status of planned projects being implemented for islanders’ benefits. The status of implementation of decisions taken in the last meeting was also highlighted in the presentation.
 
Rajnath Singh expressed satisfaction at the progress made since its last meeting held on June 30, 2018 when directions were given to focus on creation of recreational facilities along-with tourism infrastructure; implementation of renewable energy projects; incentives for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs); development of a film city in an island, and so on.
 
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Key infrastructure projects such as operationalization of Diglipur airport for civilian aircraft and construction of a new airport in Minicoy Island have been accorded high priority by the Government. Four islands (Swaraj Dweep, Shaheed Dweep, Hutbay and Long) in Andaman & Nicobar and three islands (Kavaratti, Agatti and Minicoy) in Lakshadweep have been identified for seaplane operation. CRZ clearance has been accorded for ‘Middle Strait Bridge’ on Andaman Trunk Road. All these measures will improve inter-island connectivity significantly.
 
"Digital connectivity will improve substantially in the islands with augmentation of satellite bandwidth and laying of optical fibre cable. Better communication services will facilitate setting up of Information Technology based and other Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in the islands," the release said.
 
In order to sustainably utilize the potential of tuna fish, ten deep-sea modern fishing vessels are being procured by Lakshadweep administration from Cochin Shipyard Limited. Export of sea food and coconut products is being encouraged to generate more employment opportunities in the islands.
 
Rajnath Singh called upon all concerned to expedite implementation of ongoing projects which have been planned to create additional jobs for the islanders and improve inter-island connectivity. He directed that adequate care should also be taken for maintaining a clean, green and healthy environment in the islands. Home Minister appreciated collective efforts being made by all the Ministries for holistic and sustainable development of islands.
 
The meeting was attended by Lt. Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Admiral D. K. Joshi (retd); Administrator of Lakshadweep Farooq Khan; Cabinet Secretary P. K. Sinha; CEO, NITI Aayog Amitabh Kant, Secretaries and senior officials from ministries of Home, Commerce, Tribal Affairs, Environment and Forest, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Telecommunications, Shipping, Water Resources, Earth Sciences, New and Renewable Energy.
 
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Minor earthquake shakes Andaman Islands region

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale, shook the Andaman Islands region in the early hours of today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 13.9°N and longitude 91.4°E, occurred at 0151 hours at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Naval Air Station Shibpur in Andamans commissioned as INS Kohassa

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Naval Air Station (NAS) Shibpur in the Andaman & Nicobar islands was commissioned as INS Kohassa by Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, and Chief of the Naval Staff on Thursday.
 
The ceremony was attended by several dignitaries and senior officials including Vice-Admiral Bimal Verma, Commander-in-Chief, Andaman and Nicobar Command. 
 
The ceremony included the presentation of ceremonial guard, hoisting of the Commissioning Pennant and reading of the Ship’s Warrant by the Commanding Officer, Commander Kuldeep Tripathi. 
 
INS Kohassa has been named after the White-Bellied Sea Eagle, a large bird of prey, endemic to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
 
NAS Shibpur was established in 2001 as a Forward Operating Air Base (FOAB) for enhanced surveillance in North Andaman. The close proximity of Coco Islands (Myanmar) and wide expanse of Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) makes the base a very vital asset. 
 
The airfield provides sustained detached operations of Indian Navy, Indian Air Force and Coast Guard aircraft. The Air Station operates Short Range Maritime Reconnaissance (SRMR) aircraft and helicopters. 
 
These aircraft undertake EEZ Surveillance, Anti-Poaching Missions, Search and Rescue (SAR) and Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) missions within the ANC Area of Responsibility. 
 
During the search operations for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, Dornier DO 228s of the Navy and Coast Guard operated from this base.
 
NAS Shibpur was identified by NITI Aayog as one of the ‘Early Bird’ projects as part of holistic island development. In order to meet these objectives, the Indian Navy has been ready in all respects to facilitate civil flight operations from NAS Shibpur. The runway extension to 10,000 feet is also planned in the near future to facilitate operations of wide-bodied aircraft.
 
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ANC's operational capabilities to be enhanced with commissioning of INS Kohassa

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Naval Air Station (NAS) Shibpur will be commissioned as INS Kohassa on January 24 by Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of Naval Staff and the addition of this airfield is expected to enhance the overall capabilities of the Andaman Nicobar Command (ANC).
 
INS Kohassa has been named after a White- Bellied Sea Eagle, which is a large bird of prey endemic to Andaman and Nicobar Islands (ANI).
 
NAS Shibpur was established in 2001 as a Forward Operating Air Base (FOAB) for surveillance in North Andaman. Located in the northernmost part of the islands, the airfield holds strategic importance not only for the security of the islands but also for its overall development, an official press release said.
 
"With the addition of this airfield, the Andaman & Nicobar Command’s (ANC) ability to operate independently from all the regions of the ANI will get a great boost. Basing of an independent naval unit with the requisite facilities and manpower will enhance overall operational capabilities of ANC," it said.
 
It will open up the opportunity for permanent basing of aircraft at the Naval Air Station. Presently, it provides detached operations of smaller aircraft of Indian Navy, Indian Air Force and Coast Guard with an airstrip of 1000m length. 
 
INS Kohassa will become the third Naval Air Base in Andaman after INS Utkrosh at Port Blair and INS Baaz at Campbell Bay.
 
Post commissioning, the station will function as a base for joint operation of both military and civil aircraft in keeping with the UDAN scheme of the government. 
 
As part of Phase II expansion plan, the runway length would subsequently be extended to 3000m. This will enable the operation of wide-bodied civil and defence aircraft in the future, the release added.
 
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Magnitude 6.0 earthquake shakes Nicobar Islands region

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An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale, shook the Nicobar Islands region this morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 7.6°N and longitude 94.5°E, occurred at 0823 hours at a focal depth of 84 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Sitharaman reviews operational preparedness of A&N command

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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman visited Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) on January 13-14 to review its operational preparedness. 
 
On arrival at INS Utkrosh, Port Blair on January 13, the Minister was received by Commander in Chief, Andaman and Nicobar Command (CINCAN) Vice Admiral Bimal Verma at HQ ANC.
 
She was given a comprehensive briefing and update on thrust areas and achievements of the Command. On January 14, she visited Campbell Bay and reviewed the operational readiness of the Command.
 
Sitharaman witnessed all four components working jointly in unison during an amphibious demonstration. The exercise, conducted near Campbell Bay included 10 ships, 6 aircraft and 700 troops of the Command. 
 
The Marine Commando (MARCO) unit of Indian Navy and specialist platoon (GHATAK) of Indian Army displayed their operational capabilities by carrying out helocasting and beach assault. While returning from Campbell Bay the Minister visited the southernmost part of India, Indira Point. 
 
After arrival at Port Blair, she was given a demonstration on jungle survival skills at Military Station, Birchgunj. Later, she inaugurated the phase II of Married Accommodation Project (MAP) that includes 868 dwelling units for the troops of Andaman Nicobar Command.
 
During her earlier visit in October 2017, the Minister had celebrated Diwali with the troops and on this occasion, she wished the troops a very happy Lohri, Makar Sankranti and Pongal during an interaction at Port Blair.
 
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Defence Minister on visit to Andaman Nicobar Command

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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman arrived here on Sunday evening on a two-day visit to the Andaman Nicobar Command (ANC).
 
On her second visit to the Command, Ms. Sitharaman was received by Vice-Admiral Bimal Verma, Commander-in-Chief, Andaman & Nicobar Command at INS Utkrosh. 
 
During the visit, she will review the operational preparedness and infrastructural developments of the outlying units of ANC. 
 
She will also witness an operational exercise involving all the forces of the Command, off Campbell Bay in the Great Nicobar Island.
 
Ms. Sitaraman will interact with troops and also inaugurate the second phase of Married Accommodation Project (MAP) consisting of 868 dwelling units for troops of ANC at Brichgunj Military Station, an official press release added.
 
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Cyclone Pabuk likely to cross Andaman Islands on Sunday evening

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The cyclone Pabuk over Andaman Sea and neighbourhood is likely to cross Andaman Islands around evening today with a wind speed of 65-75 kmph, gusting to 85 kmph, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
Thereafter, it is very likely to move north-northwestwards and then recurve northeastwards towards Myanmar coast and weaken gradually during January 7-8, a bulletin issued at 0530 hours by IMD said.
 
According to it, Pabuk had moved northnorthwestwards with a speed of 18 kmph during the past six hours and lay centered at 0230 hours IST of today over Andaman Sea & neighbourhood near latitude 10.7°N and longitude 96.0°E, about 370 km east-southeast of Port Blair. 
 
"It is very likely to continue to move northnorthwestwards for some more time and cross Andaman Islands around evening of 06th January as a Cyclonic Storm with a wind speed of 65-75 kmph gusting to 85 kmph. Thereafter, it is very likely to move north-northwestwards and then recurve northeastwards towards Myanmar coast and weaken gradually during 07th-08th January, 2019," the bulletin said.
 
The bulletin warned that rainfall was likely at many places over Andaman Islands, with heavy falls at isolated places. Its intensity was very likely to increase with rainfall at most places with heavy to very heavy rainfall at a few places today and at isolated places tomorrow.
 
Gale wind speed reaching 70-80 kmph gusting to 90 kmph is likely to prevail over Andaman Islands, Andaman Sea and adjoining areas of eastcentral and southeast Bay of Bengal till tomorrow morning. It is very likely to gradually decrease thereafter becoming 50-60 kmph gusting to 70 kmph over southeast Bay of Bengal, Andaman Islands and adjoining Andaman Sea & eastcentral Bay of Bengal by Tuesday morning and 40-50 kmph gusting to 60 kmph over eastcentral and adjoining southeast Bay of Bengal by Tuesday evening.
 
Squally wind speed reaching 40-50 kmph gusting to 60 kmph is likely to prevail over Nicobar Islands till today.
 
The sea condition will be high over Andaman Islands, Andaman Sea and adjoining areas of eastcentral and southeast Bay of Bengal from Sunday evening till Tuesday morning.
 
Thereafter, it will become very rough over southeast Bay of Bengal, Andaman Islands and adjoining Andaman Sea and eastcentral Bay of Bengal by 8th morning and rough over eastcentral and adjoining southeast Bay of Bengal by Tuesday evening.
 
The sea condition will be very rough over Nicobar Islands till today.
 
Storm surge of height of about 0.5 m above the astronomical tides likely to inundate the low lying areas of Andaman Islands at the time of landfall, the bulletin said.
 
The bulletin warned of possible damage to thatched huts, minor damage to power and communication lines due to breaking of branches;  major damage to Kutcha and damage to Pucca roads. Uprooting of small trees and some damage to paddy crops, banana, papaya trees and orchards; and sea water inundation in low lying areas after erosion of Kutcha embankments in Andaman Islands.
 
It advised people in Andaman Islands to remain in safe places and for total suspension of fishing operations in  Andaman Sea and adjoining southeast and eastcentral Bay of Bengal till Monday and over  eastcentral and adjoining southeast Bay of Bengal on Tuesday.
 
Fishermen were advised not to venture into Andaman Sea and adjoining southeast and eastcentral Bay of Bengal during the same period.
 
NNN

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Government says American tourist Chau 'missing, presumed dead'

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The Union Home Ministry on Thursday said American tourist John Allen Chau, who was reportedly killed by an isolated Sentinelese tribe in the Andamans, is being dealt with as "missing and presumed dead" as his body has not been recovered yet.
 
A Home Ministry official said Chau, 27, violated several rules governing tourists' visits to restricted areas, which put his life to risk.
 
The official said the exact reason for Chau's visit to the North Sentinel Island is not known yet beyond the fact that he was an adventure sportsperson and that his purpose to get there was not religious conversion.
 
"There were three filters for foreigners visiting the restricted areas: One which is imposed by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs under the protection of Aboriginal Tribes Regulation 1956, second is the Indian Forests Act 1927, and then there is the Restricted Area Permit (RAP), which is the weakest filter in terms of foreigners wanting to visit any of the islands," he said. 
 
"The bigger filters are the other two which are applicable to Indians as well. As the RAP has been withdrawn from North Sentinel as well as 28 other islands, any foreigner who visits these islands does not have to take a permit, but he has to inform the FRRO (Foreigners Registration Regional Officer) about his stay. The hotel where a foreigner stays also informs the FRRO. 
 
"Chau had not even done that. So the mandatory requirement even under FRRO was not complied with. He had not informed the hotel where he stayed. Maybe, he did not even stay in any hotel," said the official.
 
His local friend Alexander (electronics engineer), Saw Remmis (a local water sports help) and five other fishermen -- identified as Saw Jampo, Saw Taray, Saw Watson, Saw Molian and M. Bhumi -- actively facilitated and accompanied Chau to North Sentinel Island under the pretext of fishing activity to evade patrolling teams of the police, Coast Guard and Navy, said the official. 
 
For this, Chau paid the local fishermen around Rs 25,000 which is why they have been booked under the provisions of the Indian  Penal Code (IPC), which include offence of not complying with the legal requirements while hosting a foreigner, he said. 
 
"Chau was visiting a place which was restricted in every way. It was restricted from a tribal and environment viewpoint as well," the official said. 
 
The Andaman and Nicobar Police and authorities were still not clear why Chau went to the Island, he added. 
 
"About evangelisation, we really have no idea. If he had gone for that, why would he have carried snorkeling and other equipment linked with water sports. He would have carried the Bible or some other religious things. That is a matter of speculation. Investigation is going on. As of now, MHA does not know why he went to that island," said the official.
 
A 13-page journal written by Chau was also found by the fishermen who after returning from the shore to Port Blair informed his friend Alexander about his death. 
 
"Chau was writing something in the journal which he must have forgotten behind in the boat that dropped him near the shore. From there he took a Kayak and rode across to the Island and then he was to return and meet the fishermen at some predetermined spot."
 
Explaining the sequence of events, the official said that Chau along with the fishermen and his friends reached the coastline on November 14. 
 
"On November 15, Chau moved to the seashore with his kayak, but his friends did not go with him. They decided to meet him in a day or two. In the morning of November 17, the fishermen saw a dead person being buried at the shore. With clothings and other things, it appeared to be Chau. They returned to Port Blair and narrated the incident to Alexander and handed him the 13-page journal written by Chau," the official added.
 
IANS
 

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Andaman tribe kill American tourist, activists blame government

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An American tourist has been killed by the pre-neolithic and isolated Sentinelese tribe in Andaman and Nicobar Islands while trying to reach out to them, Andaman Police sources said.
 
John Allen Chau is believed to have died around November 14. Police officials were trying to recover his body around the restricted and unguarded North Sentinel Island home to Sentinelese tribes, government sources told IANS.
 
Seven locals including some fishermen, who facilitated Chau's visit, have been arrested. They confirmed seeing Chau being shot down by arrows fired by Sentinelese. 
 
This is not the first time when Sentinelese have attacked and killed trespassers. In 2006, two fishermen went near the island and were killed. The tribals also shot arrows at the helicopter that went to retrieve the bodies.
 
According to an Andaman journalist, Chau was keen to visit Sentinelese. His mother contacted the American Consulate in Chennai after he could not be reached for over a week.
 
"Chau's mother contacted the US Consulate, which in turn reached out to Andaman Police. The police investigated and arrested the seven people who facilitated his visit," Denis Giles, editor of the Andaman Chronicle, told IANS.
 
Chau first went to Port Blair and then took a boat.
 
Giles and green activists held the recent government decision to exclude 29 Andaman islands, including North Sentinel Island, from Restricted Area Permit (RAP) regime to promote tourism responsible for the killing.
 
Earlier this month, the Indian government removed the islands from RAP, allowing tourists to visit the islands after obtaining permission from the local administration.
 
"Sentinelese are the only isolated tribe of the world. They have never been contacted by outside world for thousands of years. Their hostility towards outsiders is open. What was the point in opening their area?" Giles asked. 
 
The officials who spoke to IANS said they believed that the American did not take the mandatory permission to visit the island.
 
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The government had declared about five kilometres of the surrounding waters of the North Sentinel island as a buffer and thus a prohibited zone. While the restrictions still apply, one can now easily acquire a permit and visit the island.
 
"This tragedy should never have been allowed to happen. A few months ago the authorities lifted one of the restrictions that had been protecting the Sentinelese tribe's island from foreign tourists which sent the wrong message and may have contributed to this terrible event," Stephen Corry, Director Survival International, said in a statement. 
 
The organisation now fears that Sentinelese might have been infected by deadly pathogens to which they have no immunity. 
 
One of the most isolated tribes of the world, Sentinelese are estimated to number 50 to 100. Spread over 27 sq miles, North Sentinel Island is situated 58 km from Port Blair. 
 
In January 1991, the tribe established its first friendly contact with the outside world for 23 minutes. A 13-member team lead by anthropologist S.A. Awradhi interacted with the tribes through gestures.
 
"The contact was made after years of safe distance observations and sending gifts," said an official on the condition of anonymity.
 
Earlier, a team of scientists protected by security forces stepped on the island in 1967 but could not establish friendly contact, officials said.
 
The Andaman and Nicobar islands are home to six tribes -- Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa, Sentinelese, Nicobarese and Shompen.
 
There are about 300 Jarawas, 100 Onges and 300 Shompens left. Another tribe called Jangil or Rutland Jarawa became extinct around 1920 due to epidemic.
 
IANS
 

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