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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 December, 2004, 13:05 GMT
Fears rise for Andaman thousands
Relief camp in Port Blair
Survivors from outlying islands are being brought to Port Blair
The fate of thousands of people missing in India's Andaman and Nicobar islands is still unclear as rescuers battle to reach remote communities.

Air and ground searches are targeting about 40 inhabited islands. Only 359 people are confirmed dead but thousands more are feared to have perished.

Sunday's tsunami is also thought to have wiped Indira Point - India's most southerly location - off the map.

A volcano is also reported to be spewing lava on one Andaman island.

Evacuation

The administrator of the island chain, Lieutenant Governor Ram Kapse, said he feared as many as 10,000 people could be buried in sand and mud across the islands.

There is a lot of stench. From the stench, they are trying to follow the direction to the bodies
AN Basudev Rao,
deputy inspector-general

He told the Press Trust of India that one inhabited island, Trinket, was cut in two by the impact of the tsunami.

Helicopters have been flying over islands around Car Nicobar island, which had a population of 30,000 before Sunday's sea surge.

Rescue leader Brigadier J Divadoss told the AFP news agency: "There's not one village that has not borne the fury of tidal waves.

"We can't see life anywhere but it's still impossible to hazard a guess on the death toll."

Port Blair
Port Blair residents reach higher ground amid new tsunami reports

Mohammad Yusef, a 60-year-old fisherman rescued from a village on Car Nicobar, told the Associated Press: "There's not a single hut which is standing. Everything is gone. Most of the people have gone up to the hills and are afraid to come down."

An airfield has been made operational on Car Nicobar and six Russian-made AN-32 planes are evacuating hundreds of people.

Rescue operations elsewhere have been severely hampered by the destruction of most of the jetties on the islands.

Deputy inspector-general AN Basudev Rao said: "The rescue parties are approaching inch by inch. There is also a lot of stench. From the stench, they are trying to follow the direction to the bodies."

Lava flow

A government ship reached the island of Hud Bay and brought back 580 survivors to the capital, Port Blair. Survivors say 800 there are dead or missing.

ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR
About 400 islands, 30-40 inhabited
Islands are peaks of submerged mountain range
Indian owned, area of 8,249 sq km
Population around 370,000, about 100,000 in Port Blair
Number of tribes, including Jarawa and Onge. Shompens are only aboriginal tribe

"We just managed to save our lives," survivor Dana Amma, told AP. "All our houses, our cattle, everything is gone. We don't know what to do."

The BBC's Geeta Pandey in Port Blair says refugees being brought to the capital are being kept in school buildings, which have been turned into relief centres.

Fears are also growing for four international scientists and 16 staff stationed at Indira Point, south of Great Nicobar and about 140km from Indonesia.

It is the southernmost point in India and is named after former premier Indira Gandhi.

Milind Patil, coastguard commander at Car Nicobar, said: "A coastguard helicopter made a sortie to Indira Point and it has reported it is under the sea."

On Middle Andaman island, lava is reported to be spewing near Baratang town, 100km (60 miles) from Port Blair.

Police chief Samsher Deol said: "It began on Tuesday night. Flames and lava are shooting up three metres high. We cleared the population from a half kilometre range as a precaution... and put up barricades."

About 2,000 people live in Baratang.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Panic sets in as people evacuate coastal towns



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