A fleet of seven ships and six helicopters evacuated all 2,376 tourists, including several foreign nationals, stranded in two islands of the Andamans due to cyclonic weather since December 5, officials said on Friday night.
As the weather cleared in the morning, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Union Territory (UT) administration started a joint evacuation drive and brought back all stranded tourists to Port Blair from Havelock and Neil islands of the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago.
“Altogether 2,376 tourists were evacuated from the two islands and brought to Port Blair. All are safe and are taken care of,” an official of the UT disaster department said.
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He said three Mi 17V-5 military transport helicopters from the Air Force and three Pawan Hans helicopters of the Union Territory administration, besides seven ships from the Navy and administration have been regularly plying between the islands for the evacuation process.
Located about 40 km from here, Havelock and Neil are the most popular tourist attractions in the Andamans where tourists were stranded since Monday due to torrential rains, choppy seas and heavy winds as neither aircrafts nor ships could operate due to the inclement weather.
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The cyclonic storm ‘Vardah’, which was lying 250 km west-northwest of Port Blair, was very likely to intensify into a severe cyclone, according to the MeT department.
Lt Governor of the Islands Jagdish Mukhi said there was no untoward incident and no loss of life or property due to the weather conditions.
“We are sending all tourists back home from Port Blair according to their flight timings. We have also made arrangements for their stay here,” an official said.
Among those rescued included 12 foreigners. They included two Germans, four Spanish and one Israeli.
The IAF in a statement said three MI-17V5 were pressed into service for the rescue operation.
Total 14 sorties carried out, 11 sorties from Havelock carrying 230 passengers and 3 sorties from Neil island carrying 65 passengers, it said.