Wednesday, January 31, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Staffers missing in relief work
They are hurt, dead or aggrieved

BHUJ, Jan 30 (UNI) — With a large number of its employees dead or devastated and relief piling up, the Gujarat Government is faced with a piquant situation.

Senior administration officials complain of the non-availability of lower grade employees, who normally undertake the actual relief operation in emergencies. Hundreds of employees have not reported for duty, after the devastating earthquake hit the state on Republic Day.

According to senior police officials supervising relief work, as many as 430 policemen were killed in Kutch district alone and several hundreds injured.

Hundreds of civilian employees also perished and a large number of employees had not reported for duty because their dear ones had either died or suffered injuries.

This last category of employees are not able to take part in rescue operations effectively, adding to the problems of the administration, say the officials.

The Central Government has extended all help to the state government to overcome the challenge of relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction, but the official machinery is unable to deliver the goods because of lack of manpower, they say.

The army has deployed more than 20,000 of its personnel, but they are mainly involved in rescue operations.

The quake was one of the worst natural calamities in the history of Kutch. Kutch has been facing the wrath of the nature in the past. Last year, the district faced a major cyclone,” said Mr Hiralal C. Paraikh, the ruling BJP's Gujarat unit general secretary.

He feared that casualties in Kutch alone may cross 50,000 because the debris from high-rise buildings that collapsed on January 26 is yet to be cleared.

The relief operations is slow. Several small towns and villages are still not reached by the rescuers even after four days, he said.

The Central Government, which has virtually taken over the rescue and relief operation, admits that the task is big and the resources limited.

Union Home Minister l. k. Advani said there was an urgent need to provide tents or other temporary shelters to the affected people, who were forced to stay outdoors.


Bhuj air base ploughs on
From Our Correspondent

BHUJ, Jan 30 — Death of colleagues and family members have not deterred personnel of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to carry out virtually uninterrupted relief operations from the heavily-damaged Bhuj air station in quake ravaged Gujarat.

As many as 150 IAF personnel and their families have perished in one of the worst quakes that rocked Gujarat on Republic Day which has caused severe structural damage to the air base.

The Air Force station in the forward region of Bhuj is the only link between the worst-hit district of Gujarat and the rest of the world as road and rail networks were still not operational and it would take some time before they were restored.

“The Air Traffic Control (ATC) lies completely destroyed and we are operating from a makeshift ATC”, an IAF personnel manning the station told The Tribune.

“The important aspect, however, is that it is operational and the planes, including the MiG 21s, are safe”, he said.

“In fact all landings in the air strip are emergency landings”, he said, adding that it would take at least a week’s time before the air traffic communication system was restored.


Unknown heroes save lives
From R Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

AHMEDABAD, Jan 30 — Little did they know that they had the guts to enter a crumbling structure and save those whom they barely knew.

Krishna Bhen, 35-year-old housewife, is one such brave woman who risked her life and saved the lives of three other trapped in the debris of a collapsed multi-storeyed structure.

“I had gone to the market when I saw a section of a multi-storeyed housing complex collapsing. I immediately rushed towards the debris and with my bare hands started removing the concrete parts,” she said.

Krishna Bhen said, “I found several big and heavy slabs below which some people were trapped started shouting for help and several men rushed.”

“With their help, the big concrete slab was removed and three persons, including a 65-year-old woman, were saved,” she said.

Talking to The Tribune, she said, “I do not know from where I got the strength to run towards the debris.”

“Only after the three persons were retrieved, that I thought about my own home,” said the mother of two.

Krishna Bhen said, “I can only thank God as nothing has happened to my home and my family is safe.”

Like her, there are countless number of “unknown heroes” who saved the lives of many within hours of the Bhuj quake.

But the residents here are agitated that the administration responded very slowly resulting in the death of many.

“The Republic Day, being a holiday, the administration took its own sweet time to react. Fire engines reached the area almost four hours after the incident and heavy machinery almost 24 hours after the building collapsed”, said Rakesh Patil, an area resident.

Gujarat is in the grip of natural calamity for the past three years seems to adopting a lacklustre measure of reacting to disasters.

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