|Saturday, February 3,
Quake after-effects jolt Gujarat Govt
AHMEDABAD, Feb 2 — The colossal upheaval and the enormity of death and destruction caused by the earthquake on the morning of January 26 is slowly but surely beginning to hit the Keshubhai Patel government, albeit a week after the catastrophe. For the first time it has been officially acknowledged that in this city alone 36 lakh persons have been affected by the earthquake.
Coupled with the bulldozing operations here and in Kutch district in an effort to clean up mounds of debris and mangled steel, the state government has unleashed a concerted drive of spraying disinfectants to contain the possible outbreak of an epidemic.
A hard-pressed and highly ill-equipped state administration, which is battling tremendous odds has still been unable to reach relief to several badly affected villages in the interiors of Kutch district and the Saurashtra region.
The helpless and emaciated survivors, who lost everything to nature’s fury remained laden-footed amid an unending expanse of rubble and decaying bodies with no food or water, did not know where to turn for help. With all hell having broken loose, they had simply lost their thinking powers. It was only today that a motley group of officials reached some flattened villages and the motley group of survivors just looked through them in a stupor.
Union Home Minister L.K. Advani, who has been camping in Kutch district along with Mr Patel, has directed that top priority be given in arranging tents for the shelterless and impressed upon the paramilitary forces to spare as many as possible. With people fleeing Kutch, the salt and timble industry has come to standstill, thus affecting the local economy.
The absence of temporary shelters in Bhuj and other parts of Kutch district has put an added strain on the quake-affected people. Spending the time under open skies has put a further strain on the ill-clad people.
After claiming to have managed food supplies, water and health care for the quake victims, officials said they are now concentrating on clearance of debris, providing temporary accommodation to the displaced and ensuring proper sanitation. In the debris clearing operations so far, nearly 18,000 bodies had been dug out.
Lack of coordination in providing relief to the remote quake-hit areas is a sore point, which is being compounded because of a botched-up communication network. An official rued that when 60-70 per cent areas of Bhuj and Anjar are devastated and more than 4 lakh persons rendered homeless, it is a difficult proposition to “set things right overnight.”
The Gujarat State Electricity Board has been able to restore electricity in one-third of the 950 villages in Kutch district. It was stated that 26 of the 46 substations and 109 of the 255 feeder points had been made functional.
Work force has been mobilised from Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to restore crucial communication lines in Kutch district. Private parties have been mobilised in undertaking the job of demolishing unsafe buildings in Ahmedabad.
The three wings of the armed forces has once again come to the fore by aiding the civil administration in the gigantic relief operations. In the biggest operation of its kind since Independence, the Army has deployed nearly 25,000 of its officers and men with the Air Force and Navy playing its due part in providing succour to the quake-affected. The transport wing of the IAF has flown more than 400 sorties to Bhuj and other adjoining airfields, despite extremely difficult conditions. It is now concentrating on transporting vehicles, heavy cranes, fork lifts and critical communication and engineering equipment.
Simultaneously, several states like Maharashtra and Orissa have readily come forward to adopt villages and get started with rehabilitation and reconstruction work.
NEW DELHI, Feb 2 (UNI) — Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has convened an all-party meeting here tomorrow to discuss the earthquake relief and rehabilitation work being undertaken in Gujarat.
Leaders of all major political parties would take part in the meeting.
The parties here expected to give suggestions and what contributions they could make for the relief and rehabilitation efforts in the state.
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