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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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Moderate earthquake rocks Nicobar Islands

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An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale, rocked the Nicobar Islands this evening, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 8.6°N and longitude 92.6°E, occurred at 1837 hours at a focal depth of 41 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Minor earthquake recorded off coast of North Andaman Islands

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale, was recorded off the coast of North Andaman Islands this evening.
 
A bulletin from the India Meterological Department (IMD) said the quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 14.3°N and longitude 92.8°E, occurred at 1841 hours at a depth of 13 km.
 
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Rijiju says illegal immigration into Andaman & Nicobar Islands will be curbed

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Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju has said that illegal immigration into the strategic islands of Andaman & Nicobar would be curbed. 
 
Talking to newspersons here yesterday at the end of a three-day visit to the islands, he said that it had come to the knowledge of the Centre that people from abroad manage to secure false identities and infiltrate into Andaman & Nicobar.
 
However, the Centre is committed to put a check on such illegal activities, he said. 
 
Cautioning against overcrowding in the environmentally sensitive islands of Andaman & Nicobar, Mr Rijiju said congestion would hamper its ecological protection and sustainable development. 
 
He favoured effective regulations in allowing people from outside the Islands in restricted areas. However, he emphasized that while protecting the cultural identities and livelihoods of the indigenous population, promotional activities should also go hand in hand in such a way that balanced growth is ensured without compromising on the interests of the tribal people. 
 
While responding to a query on the high cost of air travel between the islands and mainland, Mr Rijiju said the issue would be actively looked into by the Centre. The need to increase the frequency of inter-island ferry travel would also be considered sympathetically, he said. 
 
Actions are being initiated at a fast pace to overcome the problem of poor telecom connectivity in the islands that suffer from paucity of satellite transponders. Rs 150 crore has already been released to the Islands Administration by the Centre for improving telecom connectivity, he informed. 
 
As the basic geographical structure of the Islands and in some cases their dimensions have got marginally changed due to the 2004 tsunami, remapping of the Union Territory and preparing the latest and reliable cartography of the islands would be initiated very soon, by adopting the latest scientific tools and technology, he said.
 
Mr Rijiju said more administrative powers would be delegated to the Island Administration, and the Centre would mainly be concerned with major policy initiatives related to the islands. 
 
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Moderate quake jolts Nicobar Islands region

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An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 5.0 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 9.7°N and longitude 93.7°E, occurred at 0222 hours today at a focal depth of 100 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Minor earthquake jolts Andaman Sea region

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale, shook the Andaman Sea region late last night, four hours after a magnitude 5.8 quake occurred in the area, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake which had its epicentre at latitude 12.6°N and longitude 95.2°E, occurred at 2303 hours yesterday at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin said.
 
The first tremor, which had its epicentre at latitude 12.7°N and longitude 95.3°E, had occurred at 1910 hours at a focal depth of 10 km, the IMD had said earlier.
 
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Moderate earthquake rocks Andaman Sea region

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An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale, shook the Andaman Sea region this evening, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 12.7°N and longitude 95.3°E, occurred at 1910 hours at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Moderate earthquake jolts region off North Andaman Island coast

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An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale, shook the region off the coast of North Andaman Island today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 14.3°N and longitude 93.0°E, occurred at 1237 hours at a focal depth of 35 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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India, Singapore begin annual naval exercises SIMBEX 14

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India and Singapore today began the 2014 edition of SIMBEX 14, the annual bilateral naval exercises between the Indian Navy (IN) and the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), in the Andaman Sea.
 
The exercises, which will go on until May 28, are the 21st in the series designed to enhance inter-operability and mutual understanding between the two navies, an official press release said here today.
 
The release said bilateral naval cooperation between the two navies was first formalised when RSN ships began training in anti-submarine warfare (ASW) with the Indian Navy in 1994. 
 
SIMBEX is an acronym for ‘Singapore Indian Maritime Bilateral Exercise’. Since its inception in 1993, SIMBEX has grown in tactical and operational complexity.
 
"It has transcended the traditional emphasis on Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) to more complex maritime exercises, involving various facets of naval operations like air defence, air and surface practice firing, maritime security and search and rescue operations. Both navies derive considerable value form the conduct of SIMBEX. Inter-operability between the two navies has matured to a point where standard operating procedures for the conduct of exercise have been formalised," the release said.
 
This year, the Indian Navy is being represented by IN ships Kuthar and Karmuk from the Eastern Naval Command. In addition, a maritime patrol aircraft and a helicopter each from Andaman and Nicobar Command is also participating in the exercise. 
 
The Singapore Navy is represented by the missile corvette, “Valour’ and the patrol vessel, ‘Independence’. The RSN ships are making a port call at Port Blair from May 22-23 for the harbour phase of the exercise. The ships will sail for the sea phase on May 24 and will be visiting Port Blair again from May 26-28 for debriefing and the closing ceremony of the exercise.
 
"IN and RSN share a long standing relationship with regular professional interactions. This includes exchange programmes, staff talks and cross-attendance at courses. SIMBEX is an important outcome of this comprehensive process of bilateral engagement and it is through these interactions that the two navies continue to reinforce the strong maritime bridges of friendship that connect our respective nations," the release added.
 
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Minor earthquake jolts Nicobar Islands region

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.4 on the Richter scale, shook the Nicobar Islands region late last night, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 7.5°N and longitude 94.5°, occurred at 2323 hours yesterday at a focal depth of 81 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Minor earthquake jolts North Andaman region

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale, shook the North Andaman region this morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 13.5°N and longitude 92.8°E, occurred at 0626 hours today at a focal depth of 44 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Moderate earthquake rocks Andaman Islands region

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An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale, rocked the Andaman Islands region early this morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 12.3°N and longitude 93.2°E, occurred at 0615 hours today at a depth of 60 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Magnitude 6.3 earthquake rocks Nicobar Islands region

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A strong earthquake, measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale, jolted the Nicobar Islands region this evening, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 07.5°N and longitude 94.2°E, occurred at 1911 hours today at a focal depth of 15 km, an IMD bulletin said.
 
This was followed by two more quakes, the first measuring 5.3 at 1941 hours and the second of magnitude 5.2 at 1955 hours, in the same region at depths of 10 km, the bulletin added.
 
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Moderate earthquake shakes Nicobar Islands region

 
An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale, jolted the Nicobar Islands region this evening, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 7.7°N and longitude 94.4°E, occurred at 1908 hours at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Minor earthquake rocks Andaman Islands region

 
An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale, shook the Andaman Islands region today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 13.8°N and longitude.93.0°E, occurred at 1653 hours at a focal depth of 32 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Army chief Gen Bikram Singh visits Port Blair

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Gen Bikram Singh, Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee and Chief of Army Staff, visited the Tri-Services Command at Port Blair today.
 
He was received by Air Marshal P K Roy, Commander-in-Chief, Andaman & Nicobar Command, who also briefed him on the current security situation and future challenges. 
 
Andaman & Nicobar Command is the first and only joint command in the country. 
 
An official press release said Gen Bikram Singh would also carry out review of operational preparedness of all three services components of the command. Enhancing operational readiness and force modernisation have been his major thrust areas. 
 
A major asset allocation and infrastructure development plan is also likely to be reviewed with an eye on capability development for the future and developing security situation, especially in the South East Asian Region. 
 
Gen Bikram Singh will also be interacting with the Lt Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands on issues relating to security and infrastructure development, in view of increased importance of Andaman & Nicobar Command in the region. 
 
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Minor earthquake jolts Andaman Sea region

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale, shook the Andaman Sea region today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 11.5°N and longitude 93.7°E, occurred at 1153 hours at a focal depth of 33 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Naval exercise Milan 2014 ends in Andaman Sea

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As many as 15 ships from different countries manoeuvred in perfect harmony in the Andaman Sea to bring Milan 2014, a biennial exercise of Navies, to a close here this morning.
 
After a few manouvers at sea, the ships formed up in a column and steamed past the flag ship with men manning the side of the ship and presenting a traditional salute in the form of “man and cheer ship” to the presiding officer, the Commander-in-Chief Andaman and Nicobar Command (CINCAN), Air Marshal PK Roy. 
 
As many as 17 nations, including India, had participated in Milan 2014, making it the biggest edition since its inception in 1995.
 
The event started on February 4 and the last six days saw the maritime foces of these nations come closer professionally and building confidence in interoperability.
 
It was the first time that countries from the western Indian Ocean Rim (IOR) participated, including two African nations, Kenya and Tanzania, and island nations of Mauritius, Maldives and Seychelles. It was also the first time that the Philippines and Cambodia participated. 
 
The six days of engagement included an International Seminar on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), with participating nations like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar and Philippines sharing lessons from their recent first hand experiences in handling disasters such as cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis.
 
In his keynote address, the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral D K Joshi, emphasized the need for developing capacity and procedures based on common principles and considerations. He stated that ‘Rapid Deployment’, Co-ordination, Logistics and Medical Aid are cardinal considerations for founding common procedures for HADR operations. 
 
He expressed appreciation for the concerted efforts to enhance HADR co-operation and training in the region, such as ADMMPlusHADR exercise hosted by Brunei in June 2013 and Exercise Komodo, being hosted by Indonesia, next month, and stated that this seminar and the Table-Top exercise, being conducted under the aegis of Milan would contribute to these efforts. 
 
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He also mentioned that work is in progress towards developing a Standard Operating Procedure for HADR under the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS).The proceedings of the seminar focused on ‘Maritime Cooperation for Disaster Preparedness and Response’, ‘Capacity Building for Coordinated HADR Operations’ and ‘Mechanisms for Sharing of Best Practices through fora such as Milan and IONS’. 
 
A table top exercise on HADR called “Rahat” was conducted on February 8 in which delegates from the participating nations/ships were presented with a topical situation on HADR operations. 
 
Delegates grouped into multinational teams evolved a combined response to the eventuality and various options were analysed during the course of the exercise. This was followed by a discussion on various key issues like preparedness and response strategies for maritime forces in those regions prone to disasters, Logistics management issues, strategies for HADR kits and supply chain management of relief stores and regional cooperation between maritime forces during HADR operations. 
 
As different nations have evolved their own mechanisms and procedures for conduct of such operations a substantial gain was accrued from sharing these experiences and expertise.The exercise was a milestone step towards enhancing the confidence levels for cooperating and building the framework for establishing Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for such operations. 
 
Milan, with its emphasis on building friendship and understanding between personnel at the tactical level, also presented ample opportunities for the sailors to build personal bonds and friendships through a food festival, cultural programmes and sports activities. It was the first time that Milan  included a jungle survival drill and a special sporting event in the form of a triathlon.
 
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Yesterday afternoon saw the Marine Drive in Port Blair transformed into a colourful and festive site during the International City Parade. The local public turned up in massive numbers on the entire stretch of the Marine Drive. 
 
The parade showcased the rich heritage of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and gave the audience a glimpse of Indian culture and the Armed Forces.
 
In addition to a fly past by aircraft of the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force, the parade included an operational demonstration of the Indian Navy involving covert operations by the Marine Commandos and a SAR demo.
 
A sky diving display by the Akash Ganga Sky Diving team of the Indian Air Force also enthralled the audience. The march past had contingents of the Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force, and the Indian Coast Guard, along with military bands and contingents from the foreign ships participating in Milan 2014. 
 
Countries which participated in Milan 2014 included Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Thailand. 
 
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Moderate earthquake rocks Andaman Sea region

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An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale, shook the Andaman Sea region in the early hours of today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 12.4°N and longitude 95.2°E, occurred at 0514 hours at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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PM sanctions relief for next-of-kin of those killed in Andamans boat tragedy

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today sanctioned an ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh to the next-of-kin of each of those killed when their boat capsized in the Andaman Sea near Port Blair in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands yesterday.
 
Dr Singh has also condoled the loss of lives in the tragedy and asked all Central agencies to assist in the rescue and relief operations.
 
At least 21 people died after a boat carrying 51 people, mainly tourists, capsized near Port Blair this afternoon. One person is still missing while the rest were rescued.
 
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Andaman boat tragedy: Bodies of victims flown to mainland

The bodies of the 21 tourists from different parts of India who died when a boat carrying them capsized in the Andaman Sea near Port Blair in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands on Sunday were flown to the mainland by different flights on Monday.

At least 21 die after tourist boat capsizes off Andaman Islands
The bodies of the 21 tourists from different parts of India who died when a boat carrying them capsized in the Andaman Sea near Port Blair in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands yesterday were flown to the mainland by different flights today.
 
South Andaman District Deputy Commissioner P Jawahar told NetIndian that there were 51 people on the boat, of whom 21 died and 29 were rescued. 
 
One person, identified as Suresh from Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu, is still missing and efforts were on to trace him, he said.
 
Mr Jawahar said there were 32 people from Tamil Nadu on the boat, of whom 16 died and 15 had been rescued. One is missing.
 
There were 10 people from Maharashtra, of whom three died and seven were rescued.
 
There were two people from Delhi, both of whom were saved. There were also two from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, of whom one perished and the other was rescued.
 
Similarly, of the two persons from Kolkata, one died and the other was saved. 
The remaining three, all members of crew, were also saved, he said.
 
Mr Jawahar said the bodies of all the victims as well several of those rescued had been flown by different flights to Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.
 
Official sources said the authorities were investigating the mishap, including reports that the boat was carrying about twice its capacity and that there were not enough life-jackets on board.
 
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The boat, Aqua Marine, sank between Ross Island and North Bay around 4 pm yesterday.
 
The operator of the boat has been arrested in connection with the incident, the sources aded.
 
Lt Gen A K Singh, the Lt. Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, was among those who rushed to the spot on hearing of the tragedy. He has ordered an inquiry into the mishap and announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh to the next of kin of those killed.
 
President Pranab Mukherjee today expressed shock and grie over the loss of lives in the tragedy and has conveyed his condolences to the families of the deceased.
 
He also called upon the authorities concerned to engage in speedy relief and rescue efforts and render all assistance to the kin of the victims. 
 
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PM expresses grief over loss of lives in Andamans boat tragedy

 
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today expressed shock over the boat tragedy in the Andaman Islands and has condoled the loss of lives.
 
Dr Singh has asked all central agencies to immediately assist in the rescue and relief operations.
 
At least 21 people died after a boat carrying 43 people, mainly tourists, capsized near Port Blair this afternoon.
 
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21 dead as boat carrying tourists capsizes near Port Blair

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At least 21 people died after a boat carrying tourists capsized near Port Blair in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands today, officials said.
 
As many as 13 others were rescued and rushed to the Govind Ballabh Pant hospital, they said.
 
In all, the boat was said to be carrying 43 people and search and rescue teams were trying to locate the others, the officials said.
 
The boat, Aqua Marine, was on its way from Ross Island to North Bay when the mishap occurred around 3.30 pm.
 
Lt Gen A K Singh, the Lt. Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands, was among those who rushed to the spot on hearing of the tragedy. He has ordered an inquiry into the mishap and announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh to the next of kin of those killed.
 
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Mukherjee: A&N Islands can be springboard for engagement with SE Asia, Pacific region

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President Pranab Mukherjee today said the Andaman & Nicobar Islands had the potential to be a springboard for India's engagement with South East Asia and the Pacific region and could be developed as a significant trading, shippping and tourist hub.
 
"The location of Andamans a thousand miles away from the mainland and the fact that they are spread over 750 kilometres in the Bay of Bengal has implications in terms of security, connectivity and supply of resources and materials. This in turn constrains economic growth and employment opportunities," he said at a civic reception accorded to him at the Netaji Stadium here.
 
Mr Mukherjee said he was aware of the steps beings taken by the Administration to improve infrastructure and transport, such as, acquisition of new ships, expansion of air services and projects for telecommunication connectivity. 
 
"The Government of India will provide every support necessary to the people and administration of Andaman and Nicobar in these efforts," he said.
 
"Our goal has to be to promote sustainable and inclusive growth while being sensitive to the fragile eco system and concerns of our indigenous tribes. I am confident that all of you will be able to achieve this objective under the dynamic leadership of your elected representatives and officials of the Administration," he said.
 
The President said that each visit to the islans was an opportunity to pay homage to the country's freedom fighters who in this hallowed territory underwent great hardship and suffering to secure India's independence. 
 
"Our National Memorial, the Cellular Jail bears testimony to the sacrifices made by them. It stands as a symbol of the burning patriotism of many freedom fighters who spent their youthful lives here in incarceration," he said.
 
"This beautiful territory may be 1200 km from mainland India but it truly represents a 'mini India' - with settlers from various parts of the country as also our indigenous tribes. It exemplifies the principle of ‘unity in diversity’. Its unique and cohesive multi-cultural, multi-linguistic society sets an example to the rest of the country," he said.
 
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Mr Mukherjee said the immense beauty and splendour of these islands, their rich forest and marine wealth, coastal flora and fauna, along with beaches of extraordinary beauty are a natural marvel.
 
He said the islands are the home of some of India's most precious tribal communities.
 
"These communities are equal partners in the nation’s efforts at progress through modernization. Progress must come to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands but it must come with deference to the people, their traditions and the ecology. People working amongst the tribals must take up the task of development with a spirit of dedication as well as a spirit of understanding and sympathy," he said.
 
"Living in such close proximity to nature makes these islands and its people vulnerable to various kinds of natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunami and cyclones. I visited Andaman and Nicobar Islands soon after the tsunami of 2004 and witnessed the destruction and devastation that had occurred here. It is the resilience of the people of these Islands that enabled, with the support of the Government, the successful completion of the mammoth task of reconstruction and rehabilitation," he said.
 
Mr Mukherjee said the islands had since faced two cyclones, Phailin and Lehar, over the last couple of months and the Administration and the people were able to effectively deal with them.
 
"Andaman and Nicobar Islands lie at the important junction of South Asia and South East Asia. These islands are only a couple of hundred kilometres from South East Asia. The location of a dedicated tri-Service command highlights the strategic position of these islands from the view point of the defence of India," he said.
 
He also pointed out that around 30 percent of India's Exclusive Economic Zone and concomitant marine resources are around these islands, which are  not only the maritime gateway to the Bay of Bengal but also overlook major international sea routes.
 
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Minor earthquake jolts Nicobar Islands region

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale, shook the Nicobar Islands region this afternoon, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 09.5°N and longitude 92.9°E, occurred at 1309 hours at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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