Monday, January 29, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Fresh tremors as toll crosses 20,000
Thousands still homeless
Tribune News Service

AHMEDABAD, Jan 28 — The cup of woes of Gujarat and the hundreds and thousands affected by the Friday morning’s devastating earthquake appeared unending, with the death toll mounting to nearly 20,000, with Bhuj and Kutch district facing the brunt in terms of loss of human life and property.

To compound matters and as forewarned by seismologists, fresh tremors rocked Gujarat and the Rann of Kutch which were measured 5.9 and 4.6 on the Richter scale.

Gujarat has been placed on high alert which is a normal procedure as the aftershocks will continue for a few more days. There were contradictory statements about the number of aftershocks that the state had faced after Republic Day’s numbing natural calamity. While the met office in New Delhi said that Gujarat faced 71 aftershocks, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai said more than 250 aftershocks had been recorded.

This has caused further scare among affected people who are living under the open skies because of the big question mark about the safety of the buildings and structures.

The number of injured in the quake is rising by the hour and has crossed 50,000 as per official estimates, with several thousand still trapped in the debris in far-flung areas of Gujarat where relief teams are still struggling to reach.

At least in cities like Ahmedabad, relief work has picked up after initial dithering and confusion in making a proper assessment of the trail of death and destruction left by the killer earthquake.

Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel has been spending most of his time in the control room in Gandhinagar, supervising relief operations which are gaining mammoth proportions. Yet, there is very little information available about the condition of those caught off guard in the interiors in Saurashtra and Kutch districts where the authorities are still to get their act together.

Rajkot, another industrial town about 200 km from here, was also rocked by a high intensity earthquake sending people scurrying out of their homes.

Mr Patel parried questions about the estimated death toll on the ground that the necessary information from all the affected areas is not available. However, he did acknowledge that thousands of people are still trapped under the debris. He said gas cutters, heavy duty cranes and bulldozers have been requested from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to be used in Bhuj, Rapar, Bachau and Anhar areas.

Due to the intense pressure on providing medical facilities even in makeshift hospitals, the injured are being airlifted to Rajkot, Jamnagar, Kheda, Baroda, Anand, Pune and other cities.

Mr Patel said he had spoken to metereological experts in New Delhi and their update was not very encouraging. He had been informed that the epicentre of the earthquake had now shifted slightly and had tilted towards Ahemdabad. This means that Ahmedabad may be rocked by more tremors in the days to come.

At the same time, providence played its part at a village in Surendranagar district. Even as all structures were virtually razed to the ground by the earthquake, all 1500 people of Samla village were out at the Republic Day celebrations on January 26.

Basic essentials like food, warm clothing, water and medicines are yet to reach the affected people in the far-flung areas where an exodus has begun to move to safer pastures, at least for the time being.


23 rescued after 3 days

AHMEDABAD, Jan 28 (PTI) — At least 23 persons, including 10 students buried under the debris of a collapsed school building were rescued alive today, three days after the killer earthquake rocked Gujarat as people’s anger rose high over the “slow pace” of rescue operations.

Besides the 10 students, another 13 were rescued from two other sites in the worst-affected Maninagar area in the suburbs of the city. The survivors included a woman, Mona Singh, and a 10-year-old Vicky. “After 40 hours of sustained operations we were able to take out 23 persons alive from the debris, including 10 of the 70 students feared trapped under the debris of Swaminarayan Vidya Mandir,” Mr B.H. Patel, Divisional Officer, said.

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