Thursday, February 1, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

30 teams formed to give relief
From S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Jan 31 — The Gujarat Government has formed 30 self-contained teams headed by civil services officers to extend adequate rescue and relief operations in far-flung areas of the quake-affected Gujarat, even as it has begun a door-to-door survey to assess the exact damage to property and lives, Union Agriculture Secretary and Member of the Crisis Management Group (CMG) Bhaskar Barua said here today.

Each of the 30 teams, which would fan out to various villages, will have an ambulance, doctors, trucks loaded with food, blankets, life-saving drugs, heavy earth-removing equipment and clothing, etc, he said.

Barua informed that the Central and state government authorities were keeping a close watch on the possible outbreak of epidemic in Ahmedabad, Kutch and Bhuj areas.

“There is no report of any spread of epidemic, but a close surveillance is being maintained to counter any such situation,” he said, adding that the Centre has already rushed a large quantity of bleaching powder, chlorine tablets, immunisation drops, etc.

Emphasising the need for more contribution in the form of tentages, clothing, dry food, anti-biotic drugs, Mr Barua said according a rough estimate, at least six lakh of the 12 lakh inhabitants of Kutch district have been severely affected by the quake and, on an average, three lakh tentages would be required.

He informed that although power supply in Bhuj has improved, electricity could not be made available for pumping water and the local administration is banking on diesel pumps to pump water.

On the communication front, he informed, “Things are looking better” with the MTNL exchange getting power supply and majority of the cellphones getting operational.

As part of the comprehensive approach to deal with the quake crisis, he informed that the Empowered Group of Ministers headed by Union Home Minister L K Advani has decided that quake-affected villages will be adopted by various public sector undertakings for rescue, relief, rehabilitation and restoration. “Even the corporate sector would be approached for adopting villages,” he said.

Stating that focus is now on extending rescue and relief operation in Kutch,, he said the Railways would be running eight special trains carrying relief materials to Gandhidham and subsequently through road transport to Kutch.

A ship carrying heavy earth moving equipment and food and other relief material has already reached Kandla port from Mumbai, he said.

On the death toll, Mr Barua said as per the figures provided by Gujarat Government, the toll stood at 7,181 at 12 noon today.

About a question on legislation relating to Disaster Management, Mr Barua said an expert group on disaster management appointed by the Agriculture Ministry had in its interim report suggested a legislation on disaster management and the government is awaiting the final report of the committee, which is due by March-end. The government has also decided to establish 200 creches, 50 short stay homes for women and 10 women’s hostels in Gujarat.


Relief operations continue 
From Girja Shankar Kaura and Gaurav Choudhury
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Jan 31 — Five days after the killer earthquake ravaged Gujarat, the herculean rescue and relief operations continued involving 22,000 defence personnel and 5,000 paramilitary troops, even as hope of retrieving people who are trapped under the debris was fading fast.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has conducted more than 80 sorties in the past 24 hours, carrying about 3,000 tonnes of relief material to the worst-affected Kutch region as the rail link continued to remain cut off.

The Railways have so far been able to reach Gandhidham, about 100 km from Kutch.

Naval warships INS Ganga, INS Tir, INS Himgiri and two Coastguard ships are involved in the relief and rehabilitation exercises.

The Border Security Force (BSF) has dispatched additional troops from 89 and 90 Battalions to Khavda, Rapar, Bhimesar, Khadir, Muchchhi, Umrapur and Dholavira.

Seven medical teams have been deployed in the area and a 50-bedded hospital is being established at Rapar by the BSF, besides deploying 16 water tankers, four ambulances and generators for electricity supply.

The World Food Programme (WFP), an agency of the United Nations, is organising emergency air-lifts of essential items such as health kits, blankets, body bags, community kitchen sets, generators and pick-axes on behalf of the United Nations Humanitarian Response, OCHA, WHO and the Italian Government.

The first flight has already reached Bhuj, carrying the relief material with WFP logistics experts. The second consignment is expected to reach Bhuj on February 2, carrying 165 large multi-purpose tents and 2,400 blankets.

The European Union has offered relief material and funds worth Rs 160 crore for the relief exercise.

A plane carrying relief material from Italy landed at Bhuj this afternoon King Fahad Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia is also despatching two cargo planes with relief supply. The Saudi airplanes carying tents, tarpauline, medicines, clothing, blankets and food items would arrive in Mumbai tonight.

While Reliance Industries has allocated Rs 15 crore in cash and kind, public sector oil majors, Oil India Limited and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) have also decided to contribute Rs 7.5 crore each to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.

Air-India has decided to provide free ground handling equipment and manpower at Mumbai and Delhi airports for all chartered flights bringing relief material and personnel.

Meanwhile, a specially trained dog is being flown in to the affected areas along with a representative of Tutor Service Dogs, a USA-based non-profit organisation specialising in search and rescue operations of earthquakes.

A courier services firm, Blue Dart Aviation, has deployed two freight aircraft for ferrying relief material.

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