Thursday, February 1, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Relief distribution main problem
Some areas still cut off
Tribune News Service

AHMEDABAD, Jan 31 — With time running out for finding survivors trapped in an endless mountain of debris all over Gujarat following the mind-blowing earthquake on January 26, the state has decided to get the relief and rehabilitation measures started on a war footing.

Lack of a proper communication system and coordination at all levels in the Keshubhai Patel administration has resulted in rescue and relief teams failing to reach some far-flung areas in Kutch district and Saurashtra region.

This apathetic situation has posed serious questions about relief supplies being distributed properly without corrupt elements rearing their ugly heads in making a killing from the abject misery of the quake affected.

The outbreak of a serious epidemic is staring the authorities in the face as thousands of decaying bodies are still buried in the mass of debris as multistoreyed buildings having collapsed like a pack of cards.

Added to the woes of a traumatised people is the constant worry of the remaining buildings caving in because of the incessant aftershocks since the massive earthquake last Friday. Aftershocks continued to rock Bhuj and the worst affected Kutch district as well as other parts of Gujarat. The tremors ranged between 3.3 and 4.7 on the Richter scale. Shockwaves were also felt in Mumbai.

Though union home minister L K Advani sought to underplay the death toll on the plea that authentic data is still being collected, union defence minister stuck to his guns that the killer earthquake might have left more than one lakh people dead. Mr Fernandes insisted in Bhuj that he was sure of his figures as he had travelled widely in the quake-ravaged areas.

The worst case scenario is Anjar which has been razed to the ground. The stench has become unbearable as several thousand bodies are yet to be extricated. There have been any number of unsung heroes who have done their bit unmindful of the danger to themselves in coming to the aid of the affected people.

Then, thanks to the high-tech equipment of the foreign rescue teams that several people given up for dead by the state government authorities had been saved even after being trapped deep in the debris for six days. These specialist teams have started packing their bags because of the futility of their mission at this late stage.

Mr Advani, camping in Gujarat over the next two days, refused to give a figure about the damage wrought by the earthquake, except saying that it could be in five figures. But experts here acknowledge that many flourishing towns like Bhuj, Anjar and Bhachau will have to be rebuilt from scratch as most of the buildings have either collapsed or developed serious cracks.

With aid pouring in from all parts of the country and abroad, the state government is in possession of 250 tonnes of relief material at its disposal. The problem that the authorities are encountering is in its equitable distribution so that it reaches the affected all over the state. This is no easy task and requires meticulous planning and proper logistics. 


“Can’t be declared national calamity”
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Jan 31 — The Centre today clarified that the devastating earthquake in Gujarat cannot be declared a ‘'national calamity’ as there was no such provision.

“There is no provision under which one could declare the Gujarat earthquake as a national calamity,” Agriculture Secretary and the Member of the Crisis Management Group (CMG) Bhaskar Barua told newspersons here. However, he emphasised that a national effort is being made to extend rescue and relief operations to the quake-hit areas of Gujarat.

“Mere usage of the term national calamity would neither legally nor technically benefit the state government and the quake-affected people,” he said.

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