Friday, February 2, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Operation clean-up begins
Areas bulldozed to prevent epidemic
Tribune News Service

AHMEDABAD, Feb 1 — Much to the annoyance and chagrin of the survivors of the January 26 earthquake, the Gujarat Government has embarked on operation clean-up, aimed at preventing the outbreak of an epidemic by bulldozing localities which have been razed to the ground.

Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel has tried to reason with the people that if drastic steps are not taken expeditiously, a serious epidemic can cause further misery to the earthquake-affected people.

Despite the unbearable stench of decomposing bodies emanating from huge mounds of rubble, those fortunate to have escaped the wrath of the natural calamity are still hoping that a miracle will happen in extricating their close relatives.

There are other anxious relatives who have descended in the quake-hit areas. They are seen wandering aimlessly with photographs trying to seek information about their kith and kin.

The bulldozing of entire localities here and in various towns of Kutch district means that many of the survivors might never get the bodies of their immediate relatives for performing the last rites. It is also going to make collecting the necessary data for compiling an accurate death toll all the more difficult.

The state was grappling with the problem of disposing of decomposed bodies, in the absence of which the threat of an epidemic loomed large.

In many places, the sanitation system has collapsed. Experts dealing with preventive medicine apprehend the spread of diarrhoea and gastro-intestinal diseases because of contaminated food and water.

Government and disaster experts insist that it is well nigh impossible for anyone to survive under the rubble, now that a week has elapsed since last Friday’s devastating earthquake. It is, therefore, imperative to get down to the gigantic task of relief and rehabilitation as extricating all bodies all over the state is highly impracticable.

Mr Patel, who is touring the worst-affected Kutch district along with union home minister L. K. Advani, acknowledged that the state government did not have the wherewithal to extricate everyone trapped in the rubble of concrete and mortar.

Apprehending a death toll of 35,000 and damage to property in the region of Rs 15000 crore, the Chief minister said emotions apart, his government had set in motion a contingency plan of spraying disinfectants over the debris and chlorinating water to prevent the outbreak of an epidemic.

Mr Patel said their immediate priority was to provide relief and announced that Rs 10 per day would be given to every survivor of the earthquake for one month.

In the severely affected Gandhidham and Adipur with a combined population of 2.5 lakh in Kutch district, one lakh household kits, foodgrains, onions and potatoes have been distributed.

Simultaneously, Gujarat home minister Haren Pandya said that anti-infection drugs were being rushed to Bhuj, Bachau, Anjar, Rapar, Gandhidham and other areas in the Kutch district.

Surveillance teams comprising doctors and para-medical staff have fanned out in the state for detecting the outbreak of an epidemic and providing immediate treatment to patients.

The aftershocks are yet to subside. Bhuj and the adjoining areas suffered another tremor last night measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale.

In this teeming city alone, as many as 29 high-rise buildings have been singled out for demolition.

The Municipal Corporation of Ahmedabad has prepared another list of 131 buildings categorised as “unsafe.” The state government has offered free housing facilities for a year to those whose homes came crashing down. There are more than 3,000 flats which are vacant though in disrepair.

Fearing the wrath of the people, unscrupulous private builders have quietly made a getaway as most of the buildings and structures which collapsed like a pack of cards were constructed barely five years back.

Hurt by his conscience, an official in Bhuj was candid in admitting that if the authorities had not played ball with private builders in cutting corners and turning a blind eye to mandatory provisions, the all-pervasive death and devastation might not have taken place.Back


Army cordons off Bhuj
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Feb 1 — As hopes of finding more survivors faded in Gujarat today, the largest rescue operation ever to be undertaken in the world, involving 22,500 troops of Indian armed forces and several foreign and Indian civilian agencies, shifted its focus to relief and rehabilitation.

The Army has cordoned off the entire old part of Bhuj to prevent anti-social elements from looting the valuables of the once opulent diamond and other precious metal traders.

Army and para-military personnel have been deployed in adequate numbers in one of the worst affected Anjar to maintain law and order and also to streamline the distribution of relief material.

So far 58 flights have arrived from overseas destinations, including Pakistan, carrying relief material for the aid of the quake-affected people of Gujarat.

The Director General of the BSF, Mr Gurbachan Jagat, has camped himself in Gujarat for the past five days to personally oversee the relief operations.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has conducted 110 sorties by the heavy IL-76 aircraft, 218 by AN 32s, 38 by Dorniers during the past 24 hours.

So far 10,650 surgeries have been performed by military doctors, of which 1,629 are major surgeries including 1,600 amputations.

Five German experts are camping in Bhuj for evaluating the operations of the THW, a specialise German Disaster Relief Organisation. Its operation in India, conducted under the supervision of the German Home Ministry, is financed by the Disaster Relief Fund of the German Foreign Office.

So far, Germany has offered Rs 8.4 crore for the activities of several NGOs to help the quake victims.

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) is due to wind up its rescue operations in the quake affected areas of Gujarat and is shifting its focus to rehabilitation.

The Head of DFID’s humanitarian aid work, Dr Mukesh Kapila, arrived in Bhuj today to assess the UK relief efforts to decide upon the future course of their exercise.

The Power Finance Corporation (PFC) has sanctioned a loan of Rs 100 crore on a priority basis for taking up restoration work in the quake affected areas of Gujarat.

The PFC had earlier despatched a team of senior officials to assess the extent of damage to electrical lines, sub-stations and civil structures of the Gujarat Electricity Board. In addition PFC had decided to contribute a day’s wage of all its employees for the welfare of the victims.

The Indian Railways will run four special trains from Ahmedabad today to evacuate the earthquake victims and their relatives from the affected areas. These trains will go to Howrah, Muzaffarpur, Mumbai and Delhi.

In addition, a special goods train, carrying 30 earth moving machines including 18 bulldozers, is scheduled to leave Delhi tonight.Back

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