Tuesday, January 30, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

PM announces Rs 500-cr relief
Fear of epidemic as bodies decay
Tribune News Service

AHMEDABAD, Jan 29 — Even as an ill-equipped Gujarat is yet to come to terms with the havoc wrought by the devastating earthquake on the morning of January 26, the death toll is likely to touch a staggeringly high figure, with no parallel since the country attained independence.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee announced a Central assistance of Rs 500 crore to Gujarat after going round Bhuj and undertaking an aerial survey of the Kutch region today. He also released an additional Rs 20 crore from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund for shoring up relief and rehabilitation efforts.

Expressing grave concern at the mounting casualties, he issued directions that the best treatment be made available to the injured and rescue operations sped up.

Breaking the security cordon, he spoke to the villagers and the injured in hospitals and assured them of every possible help.

Shell-shocked officials, desperately groping for high-tech assistance insist that the killer earthquake has already snuffed out the life of 25,000 persons. The ultimate figure can be frightening and can be gauged only when relief work gets under way in all the far-flung areas of Kutch district and backward Saurashtra where more than 100 villages have been flattened.

With life slowly ebbing out for those trapped in the debris as more than 72 hours have elapsed since the earthquake, the continuing aftershocks have whipped up a fear psychosis among the people.

Railway stations and state road transport terminals are choc a bloc, with people desperately trying to find passage to a safe haven till an element of normality returns to the earthquake ravaged areas.

Compounding the problems for the authorities and the people are the fears of an epidemic breaking out because of the decaying bodies and increasing stench emanating from the debris in various areas.

In the villages where basic help is still awaited, the survivors comprising men, women and children are trudging to safer pastures knowing not what the morrow holds for them.

Shortage of beds in regular and makeshift hospitals with the injured being brought in an endless stream coupled with an overstretched worked medical staff and shortage of critical medical supplies staff is assuming alarming proportions.

As the third most industrialised state in the country, Gujarat is at the crossroads caught in the thick of the country’s worst natural calamity which has laid bare in its wake a veritable sea of death and destruction.

There are unofficial estimates of about one lakh people still trapped in the debris in Bhuj, Anjar, Rapar and Bachau in Kutch district which faced the brunt of the earthquake as well in Surendranagar, Morbi, Ahmedabad and other places.

Meanwhile, the state was rocked by fresh tremors today measuring between 3.5 and 4.6 on the Richter scale. It was felt in Bhuj and other parts of Gujarat. The seismology department of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai firmly believes that the rate of aftershocks has considerably reduced and the region is stabilising.

Yet again, there were differing estimates of the number of aftershocks. While the Indian Metereological Department claimed that it had recorded 88 moderate ones after the massive one on Republic Day, BARC said it had recorded a no fewer than 270 aftershocks till this afternoon.

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