Friday, February 2, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Deadline set for extricating bodies
From R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

BHUJ, Feb 1 — People in this unplanned and prosperous city are highly agitated that the authorities have done precious little to ameliorate their suffering, especially in extricating the bodies of their kith and kin from the debris even after a week since the killer earthquake struck Gujarat on the morning of January 26.

These helpless people have lost all hope of finding any of their near and dear ones alive under the huge mound of rubble. Their only plea, which they angrily say has fallen on deaf ears, is that they want to perform the last rites of their relatives for which heavy equipment is needed to remove the debris.

What is heartrending is that all of them know where their close ones are trapped in the structures which have collapsed like ninepins.

For six days they tried with bare hands and whatever implements they could garner to punch holes through the concrete but to no avail. Abject frustration is writ large on their faces that they could not do anything to reach those trapped in tonnes of debris.

Gujarat Government’s Principal Secretary for Roads, Buildings and Transport H.P. Jamdar told TNS here today that a deadline of 48 hours had been fixed for extricating all bodies trapped in the debris.

Asked if any action was proposed against the builders for violating rules, especially as Bhuj and the Kutch districts is graded among the worst seismic zones in the country, Mr Jamdar refused to offer any comments.

A much harried District Commissioner Kamal Dayain stated that two persons found alive in the debris were extricated yesterday and rushed to the medical camp for immediate attention.

The scene outside the quickly set up medical camp here is beyond any comparison as the bodies of those killed in the earthquake are lying around. Medical teams are spraying chemicals to prevent the spread of epidemic.

No fewer than 500 villages in and around Bhuj have been severely affected by the earthquake where rescue efforts are yet to get started. The British team of experts which has been camping here over the past four days is packing up and leaving today. However, teams from the USA, Israel, France, Belgium and the International Red Cross Society are here hoping against hope in locating some survivors under the debris.

Though an accurate death toll in Bhuj alone is not available because the work of removing the debris is yet to get on track in the right earnest, unofficial estimates put it upwards of 20,000.

Unfortunately, the expert rescue teams from abroad have concentrated their efforts only in the cities and towns rather than fanning out in the interiors where such direly needed help has been non-existent. However, in some far-flung areas volunteers of non-governmental organisations and the RSS have tried to do their bit in providing succour to the quake-affected.Back

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