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Where forests saved the people

Friday 31 December 2004, by NAMBATH*Suresh

PORT BLAIR, DEC. 30. The Nicobar group of islands will never be the same again. Their shapes have changed. After Sunday’s tsunami, some of the islands have become smaller, yielding ground to the sea on the south-eastern side.

As the sand bands in some of the islands have given way to the rising sea, there have been cases of two islands lying in the place of one. Katchal, Pillow millow and Trinket are examples. There are others where the collapse of bridges similarly gives the impression of islands having broken up. Submerged rock formations could also bring about changes in the cartography. Besides, the lighthouse in Campbell Bay, the southernmost point, is completely cut off and is now a stand-alone structure.

Car Nicobar badly hit

Although Campbell Bay was closest to the epicentre of the earthquake off Sumatra, it was protected to some extent by the hilly terrain. But Car Nicobar, described as a flat, fertile land, was understandably not so lucky.

Many of those who survived in Car Nicobar had moved to the air-strip that was on a higher point. But the air force base itself suffered heavy casualties.

Officers and their families, who prided in their sea-facing houses, suffered more than others.

The forest cover also reduced the number of casualties in some of the islands. About 400 persons in Car Nicobar who had retreated into the forest to escape the tsunami have returned.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have always been known for the beaches that merge into forests and rise up as hilltops.

Strangely, it is the beaches that now appear the most inhospitable of the three.

See online : The Hindu

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