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Perpetuating Disasters

The Vulnerable Andaman and Nicobar Islands: A Study of Disasters and Response by Punam Tripathi, Oxon and New York: Routledge, 2018; pp xix + 334, 1,095.

 

I had a call from Thomas on 3 April 2019 asking how and where I was. There were a series of nine medium-intensity earthquakes ranging in magnitude from 4.7 to 5.2 on the Richter scale around the Nicobar Islands on 31 March that year, virtually coinciding with the end of the financial year. I did not get to know of them until a little later, though I was in South Andaman Island at the time. I had just left the Nicobars a few days earlier and Thomas, a friend from Little Nicobar Island, was in touch with me prior to my departure. He knew I was in the vicinity and called to find out how I was. The telephone network was horrible as usual, and it took him about five attempts to get through to me. I asked him what the situation was like after the series of earthquakes shook the southern islands. He said, “All fine, where will we go? It is normal to be shaken every once in a while; we just stayed wherever we were. In any case, if we have to die, we will, the government will help us decide.” We laughed a bit, and he did say that there was some hustle and bustle after the event, but all was in order as no tsunami occurred and the islanders were just a bit shaken, but not stirred too badly.

Such earthquakes are frequent in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (A&N Islands hereafter), though none have brought death, devastation, confusion or change to daily life on the islands. It was the great earthquake and tsunami disaster that affected the Nicobars and parts of the Andaman Islands in 2004. What set in among much of the population through their experience of this event is a combination of remorse, lack of initiative in their own capabilities and strengths, dependence on governmental assistance, reconfigurations of power and control in their society and a lackadaisical economy. Much of these resultant effects are changes that took shape during the years of rehabilitation, disregarding evolved and indigenous socioecological island-based livelihood support systems.

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Updated On : 27th Jan, 2020

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