Port Blair, Dec. 30: For once, the coast guard chopper did not mind retreating under fire.
Around 2 pm today, arrows began flying at the helicopter on a mission to draw up a situation report on the endangered tribals of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The arrow attack was the surest sign yet that the tribe has survived the tsunami.
Spotting a batch of 20 to 30 people on the North Sentinelese Island, the pilot shed altitude to take a closer look. If he had any doubt, it was removed when the tribesmen, known for their hostility towards intruders, fired the arrows.
If a ground count eventually puts the number at 30, it will account for almost all the Sentinelese known to be inhabiting the island.
Officials were upbeat about other tribes, too. 'Our helicopters and naval ships have confirmed that the exotic tribes ' Sentinelese, the Onges, the Shompens, the Great Andamanese and the Jarawas ' are all safe. They have survived nature's fury,' said Arun Kumar Singh, the vice-admiral and director-general of the coast guard.
The navy and the coast guard have been mounting multiple missions to track the tribes down in the face of growing concern about the fate of some of the world's most endangered groups.
However, an Onge woman is missing from a batch of 16 on South Bay.
The tribal welfare department has mounted a search for the young Onge woman who was last spotted near the beach on South Bay on December 25.
'We have counted only 15 Onges on the settlement. The woman is definitely missing,' said a senior tribal welfare officer.
But inspector-general S.B. Deol said most of the tribes are safe and if anything had gone wrong, the authorities would have known. 'They are very friendly these days. Apart from the Sentinelese, the others ask for medical aid and are even hospitalised, if required. No untoward reports concerning them has reached us,' added Deol.
The rest of the 80 Onges of the 96-member group stay in Dugong Creek, Little Andaman.