Thursday, February 1, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Death snatched 200 kids
From R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

RADHAMPUR (KUTCH DISTRICT), Jan 31 — Bewildered and impoverished, the earthquake affected people from the adjoining areas are streaming into this town with a population of about one lakh for succour.

Compared to the devastation all around in the 70-km radius from here, Radhampur’s buildings have come down like a pack of cards. Its death toll is estimated from 5,000 to 10000.

The worst affected in the adjoining cluster of villages is little-known Adnodhy where this correspondent found that the survivors can be counted on fingers.

Help reached Adnodhy village after an interminably long wait of four days, thanks to some voluntary organisations and RSS volunteers.

This is the story of a police constable who managed to fight the tremendous odds and live to narrate the horrendous tale in which his family was crushed under the mountain of debris.

The constable told TNS that he and his family were trapped in the police quarters during last Friday’s earthquake. He managed to find a nail and burrowed away by making a small hole in the stone and mortar that had engulfed him.

At frequent intervals, he used his lung power to catch attention. It was after a harrowing wait for no less than 96 hours that some villagers rushed to his aid and extricated him. His wife breathed her last as her legs had got badly crushed under the concrete slabs.

Despite the personal trauma and the chaotic conditions in the village, the constable has held his ground, refusing to move to a safer place.

The cruel hands of death snatched nearly 200 schoolchildren taking part in the Republic Day march past through the narrow streets of the village. Their end came when the buildings on both sides of the street came crashing on Friday.

The constable is guarding the property of the village folk even though fate has snuffed out their lives. Their communication with the outside world is through a lone mobile phone which is mercifully working.

In the nearby Vordha village, the aftermath of the earthquake is numbing. Nobody wants to talk as the tragedy is too overbearing. Bodies buried in the debris are yet to be retrieved and the last rites performed. The authorities have started spraying insecticides in an effort to stave off an epidemic.

Radhampur is putting up a brave front trying to provide the soothing balm to the best of its ability. It has set up a full-fledged medical camp to tend the wounded along with providing food and water.


Thronging to Bhuj for food
From Gaurav Choudhury

BHUJ, Jan 31 — Amid the stench of decaying corpses, ravaged buildings and mass exodus of people to safer places, survivors of what remains of this commercial city nurture hopes that they will survive the crisis.

“Shahr aise khatam nahin ho jaate hain (cities do not disappear overnight),” Rashidbhai says, adding, “Bhuj is a historic city and people will continue to get attracted towards it”.

Even in the wake of the catastrophic devastation, the city continues to attract people, with food and other relief materials acting as the strongest force in attracting migrants.

“I have walked for more than 40 km to reach Bhuj,” a completely desolate Rameshbhai says.

“No relief material was reaching us. Somebody told us that food was available in Bhuj, so we walked down on an empty stomach,” a visibly dehydrated woman accompanying Rameshbhai added.

“At least, we are getting something to eat here,” they said.

The Indian Air Force station, despite severe structural damages, is acting as the crucial link between the region and the rest of the world, implying that relief operations started at the earliest here.

Moreover, the military base hospital here is the only medical facility in the region to be under operation. “All civil hospitals in and around Bhuj are ravaged and this is the only hospital worth its name in the region,” a nurse serving at the military hospital said.

For those who have survived the killer quake of Friday last, it is a question of shattered dreams and all-pervading darkness. The city itself is undergoing a rapid social transformation, creating imbalances within the existing structure.

“Our city is in ruins. We have lived here for generations. But I have lost belief in the city and moving out,” said Raju Patel, a 40-year-old man who has lost his entire family, except his 10-year-old son in the quake.

But where does he go? “I do not know. But I am leaving for sure,” Patel said with a choked voice with a sense of resignation.

“I had bought the flat by saving Rs 4 lakh in the past 17 years of my service, and now during the rest of my life, I will never be able to live in my own house,” Patel says breaking into tears.

Raju Patel’s case is not an isolated one. The exodus from here may entail traversing long distances on foot as road and rail networks will take a while before it gets restored.

But there are others, who manage to put up a brave face even in the wake of the unmitigated disaster.

“No, I will not leave the city. And where do I go?” bemoans Rasheedbhai, a tailor in the flattened walled-city area.

There are many others like him who hope to stay put in the city. For the time being, they are all out in the open, lighting firewood to keep them warm and brave the long, chilly nights which seem endless.

The mass exodus of the rich and poor continues relentlessly with their belongings laden on trucks, tempos, tractors or any other mode of transport. They are heading towards other places in the state with a two-way traffic to and from Bhuj slowly getting more discernible.


Quake loot: one beaten to death

BARODA, Jan 31 (PTI) — An unidentified person, who allegedly tried to loot jewellery shops at Soni Market in the quake-hit Bhuj city, was beaten to death yesterday by local people, an eyewitness said.

Shailesh Parmar, a tailor from Bhuj, who has taken shelter here, said several cases of looting were reported from the quake-ravaged town and those caught stealing were being beaten up by residents.


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