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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Relief falters as focus shifts to figures
Officials send SOS on stock

'Poor villagers who are dying are being asked to come on feeble feet for a day's ration, handed to them only after ascertaining their identity ' a humiliation to a dying man' It has been several days since the tsunami, but relief material have simply not reached a lot of places, and this is due to the utter callousness of the administration' the dead bodies have piled up and maggots are eating into them. I fear an epidemic will start soon' food and other relief material must be air-dropped soon or else'

A senior government official sent this SOS to his superiors today from Car Nicobar, the worst affected of the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the tsunami disaster, sending authorities here into a tizzy.

A secretary, privy to confidential information from the island, said on condition of anonymity: 'It is inhuman to ask tribals to come and take food when food should reach them instead. We will recall the man in-charge.'

The official who sent the SOS, shocked at relief eluding thousands of tribals despite huge stock, hinted that the Union territory's administration was concerned more with the number of the dead and the missing rather than the relief work.

His letter showed how loads of relief material were lying unused although villagers were getting only a little khichdi.

Another message today from Car Nicobar, which has an estimated 20,000 people, said about 2,000 are stranded there.

The official toll for the Union territory rose to 712 from 409 yesterday but the estimated number of its missing plunged to 3,000 from 10,000-odd two days ago.

The Telegraph found that the official figures are understated, which is also the general perception in the islands.

A list of 'missing/feared dead', prepared for chief secretary V.V. Bhat and senior police officials, reveals that 3,000 people are feared dead or missing in Car Nicobar alone; another 3,000 remain untraced in Kachal.

Campbell Bay and other affected islands like Nancowrie, Teressa, Chawra and Kundu are still missing 270-300 people, according to this list. 'The official figures suggest around 60 are missing but the figure is actually over 1,000,' said an officer at the Campbell Bay relief cell.

Relief officials have also raised doubts about the administration stocking enough food for the islands even before the tsunami struck as part of regular allocations.

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