Update: 120 tourists have embarked on two ships, the ships are preparing to depart Havelock: Indian Coast Guard.
Four shuttles carried out, 85 tourists rescued from Havelock Islands, news agency ANI quotes Air Force.
Indian Coast Guard’s officials also at Havelock Islands, evacuation of stranded tourists in progress in Andaman. 17 people have been rescued in the first shuttle: Air Force on tourists stranded in Andaman due to bad weather, reports news agency ANI
Port Blair: A severe cyclonic storm packing windspeed upto 130 km per hour will pound Andaman and Nicobar on Friday and Saturday, the met office has warned, raising fresh concerns over the safety of 1,400 tourists stranded in the archipelago for four days. The stranded tourists include 320 foreign nationals.
The Union Territory administration sought the defence ministry’s help for providing air sorties to evacuate the tourists from Havelock and Neil islands as rough seas prevented the navy from mounting rescue attempts.
News agency ANI quoted a defence official as saying eight ships, including six from the navy, and three air force choppers moved out from capital Port Blair on Friday on a rescue mission. Three earlier attempts had failed.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said Cyclone Vardah will also dump heavy rains on the island group, the last Indian outpost on the Bay of Bengal and a popular destination for tourists drawn by pristine beaches and watersports activities.
“Sea condition would be rough to very rough along and off Andaman islands and adjoining sea areas during the next 24 hours,” the forecast said.
With food supplies in the two islands running low, Andaman lieutenant governor appealed to the defence ministry for air sorties to replenish supplies to the two islands, where the resorts are powered by diesel generators.
Mukhi’s appeal came shortly after Union home minister Rajnath Singh said in Delhi on Friday, the Centre was monitoring the situation and that rescue operations through sea will be mounted once the intensity of the storm reduces.
The two islands, roughly 40 km from capital Port Blair, are connected to the mainland by government and private ferries and cruise ships.
Officials said Mukhi also directed hotel owners to provide accommodation and food to the stranded tourists free of charge for the period of extended stay.
“A decision has been taken that hotels where tourists are stranded will not take any room rent from them, besides giving them food and water for free,” deputy commissioner of South Andamans Udit Prakash Rai said.
Soumen Hazra, who works in a restaurant at Havelock, said they had food but cooking gas will run out in the next two days if supplies do not arrive.
Rahul Fernandes, who came on a week-long vacation with five of his friends to the islands complained that they were running out of cash.
“The hotels are asking us to pay bills for food but we have no cash left. The ATMs are all dry,” said the tourist from Mumbai, vacationing at Havelock since Sunday.
Four ships despatched by the navy for rescuing 800 trapped tourists in Havelock were waiting outside the harbour, unable to start the operation due to inclement weather.
“The ships will hold position and return only after picking up the tourists,” a defence ministry spokesperson said in Kolkata.
Though there are no reports of any loss of life from any part of the islands, trees have been uprooted and electric posts twisted, affecting power supply.
Mobile and internet connectivity have also been snapped in many areas.
October-to-February is considered the best time to travel to the islands, which also house the famous Cellular Jail in Port Blair, built by the British to jail dissenters.
All three defence wings – the army, navy and air force – have bases in the Andamans.