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March 12, 2001 - March 12, 2001

CM inspects rehab work in Bhuj Monday, March 12, 2001

Adhering to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's appeal not to celebrate Holi, Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel flew to Bhuj on Saturday to comfort those who have lost their dear ones to the January 26 earthquake. The CM also got feedback from the quake survivors on the progress made in rehabilitation. The survivors had demanded that the government give only cash assistance, leaving re-construction to them.

Leaders of various local communities, including Thakkars, Jains, Gadhvis, Rajparas and other sections, made representations to the chief minister about their grievances.

A majority of them impressed upon Keshubhai that the government should, at the earliest, finalise plans for rehabilitation and give them cash assistance for re-construction of temporary houses.

The delegations narrated their problems. Some of them even criticised the administrative delay in execution of the comprehensive rehabilitation programme. At one point, officials had to assuage the angry residents who alleged that despite tall promises nothing concrete had been done for creating temporary shelters.

Chief minister had a first-hand experience of the ire of the people who have been running from pillar to post inquiring when they would be disbursed the amount for reconstruction of shelters in Bhuj. Sensing the mood, Keshubhai assured them that the comprehensive plan would be executed by next week, once the survey teams had submitted their report.

Among those present at the meeting were industries minister Suresh Mehta, chief co-ordinator rehabilitation L Mansingh and Kutch district collector Anil Mukim.

Patel also visited some of the sites that had been reserved for relocation. It is learnt that the chief minister has directed officials to allocate two more vacant plots for setting up housing colonies for those whose houses had collapsed in the Walled City.

He also supervised the ongoing construction of 105 houses undertaken by the National Housing Board in collaboration with Coir Board and evinced keen interest in the housing facilities. This was Keshubhai's fourth visit since the killer quake.

Replying to an angry resident, the chief minister said the government was committed to providing them houses before monsoon and other financial help by next week. Some of them opposed the government's relocation move, pleading, "Please give us the amount and we will construct our houses."

The chief minister stayed the night in a tent pitched for VIPs at Ummed Bhuwan in Bhuj.

From Bhuj, Keshubhai drove down to Anjar and heard the problems of the quake survivors.

More than 70 per cent of the displaced people have been provided temporary shelters.

He also visited a shelter set up by the RSS and inquired from victims whether they were satisfied with government's help. Some of them complained that, so far, the district authorities had not done anything about their livelihood.

The chief minister directed the officials that artisans should be absorbed in projects.

After two hours' halt at Anjar, Keshubhai left for Gandhidham and discussed rehabilitation work with senior officials.

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Handicapped have nowhere to go in Kutch Monday, March 12, 2001

BHACHAU: Among the thousands of buildings that the quake damaged in Kutch were four centres which could have come in handy for rehabilitating those who were severely injured and incapacitated, many for life.

On January 26, five minutes after it all began at 8.45 am, Kutch was also been robbed of four centres for the blind, aged and handicapped, including the centre in Raydhanpar whose all 68 buildings are a heap of rubble today. Damage: Rs 1.5 crore.

The one in Bhachau has lost all its 11 buildings, including a gaushala, the government school for the blind in Bhuj and the Navchetan Centre for the blind in Madhapar.

Ambalal Pandya, of the Blind People's Association, who visited Mandla, the second largest home of the aged, handicapped - visually and otherwise, recounted the tale of Mandla centre where 16 blind people died.

"They would have lost sense of direction, not knowing what was happening, where to go and what to do. Like infants and the very ill, these 14 blind people were the most vulnerable victims of the quake,'' Pandya said.

Imagine, there were four others, young relatives of the staff members, without a handicap, and the 30,000 others who could not make it. But there were a lakh and more to whom nature gave a chance and they grabbed it for dear life to tell their tale of disaster.

These were centres for the retraining and vocational training of the handicapped and the old. But today when Kutch has the maximum number of such people, ravaged, injured and rendered incapable by the quake, none of the centres exists to help them regain their pride and live independently.

Says Bhushan Punani, executive director of the National Association for the Blind, thousands have died and many more have been rendered handicapped by the earthquake, but these four centres don't exist to fill the void in long-term medical rehabilitation caused by the damages to these centres.

According to primary estimate over 1.5 lakh people were injured in the earthquake including 1.15 lakh in Kutch district alone. Even the civil hospital in Bhuj was totally destroyed and the injured who survived the quake may suffer from the damage to their bodies and limbs for a long time to come.

Says Dr Bipin Patel, secretary of the Gujarat chapter of the Indian Medical Association, these people were packed off to hospitals in Rajkot and Ahmedabad and their initial injuries have been sorted out and many will be returning to Kutch.

But without facilities for the blind, physiotherapy and post-trauma care these people may never recover to the extent that they should.

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Architects piqued at not being invited to seminar Monday, March 12, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The earthquake has not only taken toll of thousands of people and buildings in the state, it has also caused a veritable divide between the architects and engineers.

The rift between the two came to fore at the day-long seminar on 'best engineering and building practices' co-organised by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and the Centre for Environment Planning and Technology on March 7.

The Indian Institute of Architects (IIA) and the Gujarat Institute of Engineers and Architects (GICEA) were not invited to the symposium which, sources claim, updated the engineers and experts from the AMC, AUDA, Roads and Buildings Department, CEPT, Roorkee, Mumbai and Chennai with new and quake resistant building knowledge.

And, points out GICEA senior vice president N K Patel, these are not the guys who are going to do the retrofitting or make new buildings to replace the ones which have been demolished.

"The symposium, as I understand, was organised to benefit the practising engineers and architects of this state so that they could start the work of reconstruction and rehabilitation," he added.

Says Vikram Pandya, chairman of the Ahmedabad chapter of Indian Institute of Architects, "We were not invited and I don't know who attended that symposium. Experts from other parts of the country came and we could have benefited from their knowledge".

When contacted, deputy municipal commissioner Vinay Vyasa said that the AMC had left the matter to the CEPT because it was a technical symposium and CEPT knew best who to invite. "We only helped in logistics like providing the auditorium and taking care of the guests, their transportation etc."

While senior faculty of CEPT, professor V R Shah said that it was an open invitation and everyone was invited. "It was for a specific purpose and experts from all over India and the world came," he said adding that the CEPT was acting as a nodal agency and the symposium was organised by the AMC.

In fact, say GICEA sources, CEPT, government of Gujarat and AMC-AUDA kept the local engineers and architects and their associations out of the whole thing.

"They are inviting experts from other parts of the country to discuss and decide a plan of action which will serve us for decades and those who are going to execute these plans are not invited to take part in these discussions," said NK Patel.

"Many government buildings designed by their own architects and engineers have come down, dams (Morbi) designed by them have burst and thousands of lives have been lost. And the same people are today sitting down to decide the future course of action," an infuriated IIA source said.

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'Eclipse has impact on earthquakes' Monday, March 12, 2001

RAJKOT: Eclipse, solar or lunar, definitely has a bearing on the earthquake and this is due to the gravitational pulls and the changes in the magnetic field, believes noted astrologer Jayprakash Madhak.

Talking to this correspondent, Madhak said that the killer quake left behind death and destruction on the same path that the eclipse on August 11, 1999 had followed.

The eclipse was clearly visible in Bhachau, Anjar, Maliya, Morbi Surendranagar, Limbdi and Ahmedabad as per the map released by the Vikram Sarabhai Community Science Centre, which has been much in demand after the January 26 tumble.

The quake also took the same path and left behind death and destruction in these very places.

According to Madhak, the next such eclipse is due on August 22, 2009. During this time also, new fault zones would be created, he says. "There is no doubt eclipse and earthquakes have a long-standing relationship. The impact of eclipse is felt for almost six months after it has elapsed," he adds.

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Experts prepare blueprint on repairs in city Monday, March 12, 2001

AHMEDABAD: For the thousands of Amdavadis who saw their dreams crumble to heaps of rubble on Black Friday, its like manna from heaven.

At a special meeting organised by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority along with Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, over 35 expert structural and construction engineers from all over the country debated and argued over which mode to adopt to make the concrete jungles of Ahmedabad seismally safer than what it is today.

The meeting ended up with experts coming to a consensus and finally giving birth to a blueprint for repairing and retrofitting of damaged buildings in Ahmedabad in the most ideal and economic manner.

Engineers from Earthquake Engineering Institute of Rourkee, Structural Engineering Repair Centre of Chennai and experts from Mumbai, Indore along with those from Ahmedabad participated in this day-long seminar.

Though conclusions drawn at the meeting are still being documented by Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology, which played a pivotal role in organising this programme, sources say that the suggested measures would lend direction to the repair and retrofitting of buildings in Ahmedabad.

This report, according to civic officials, will be made available to the masses and technocrats - structural engineers, construction engineers and architects - of the city to mould future construction work and more importantly the repair and seismic strengthening of buildings."We have stopped all construction work in the city, as we have observed that the work to bring the damaged buildings back to atleast pre-quake status was going on in an haphazard manner.

Experts at the symposium have gone into this aspect in great detail and shortly we will be ready with a handbook containing their suggestions," informed an AMC official.

The source added, "The handbook will put fears of high-rise apartment owners at rest and tell the technocrats about how to correctly proceed on the specialised job of seismic strengthening."

For those who continue to stay away from home, fearing to go up the high and low-rises characterised by a network of cracks, officials say that this handbook will definitely give an insight into what kind of damages the buildings have suffered and what are their remedies.

With five focal issues at the seminar, experts dwelt on the correct practices for repairing, rehabilitating, seismic strengthening and retrofitting of RCC frame in low-rise, and high-rise structures. Procedures to keep a control and check on building designing, construction work and for testing of existing structures were also designed during the seminar.

The meet which had over 62 experts from the city and elsewhere participating in it saw a special technique being designed for repair and retrofitting of buildings in Ahmedabad, apart from a procedure to cross-check the existing buildings and those under construction.

"Procedure for proper repair (which would be economically feasible for the commoners) of quake-affected buildings drawn up during the symposium will soon be made available to the masses and the people who would be actually involved in its implementation like structural and construction engineers," informed advisor to municipal commissioner PU Asnani.

Asnani added, "Special attention has been paid to keep the repair and retrofitting as economical as possible for the general masses and also to give them a quick solution of this problem. The procedures designed and decisions taken on Wednesday are keeping in mind Ahmedabad's physical characteristics and limitations."

The meet also discussed highly specialised techniques for repairing and retrofitting the damaged buildings. "These techniques can add to the seismic strength of a structure without disturbing its aesthetics. Though this is a costly affair, those wishing to avail this facility are free to do so," said professor Nilkanth Chhaya of CEPT.

Professor Chhaya added, "The handbook developed from the day-long brainstorming session will list out methods to strengthen RCC structures to bear horizontal and vertical load even while facing high-intensity earthquakes. One hopes the fruits of this brainstorming session will be shared by people living in seismally active zones all over the country."

Professor Anand Arya, the chairman of Bureau of Standard for Earthquake Engineering, Government of India, was one of the panelists at the symposium.

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