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March 5, 2001 - March 6, 2001

'All pros and cons to be weighed' before bringing down any building in Bhachau Tuesday, March 6, 2001

BHACHAU: Commanding officer of the 13 Engineers Regiment, Major-General N.P. Aul said that all pros and cons would be weighed before bringing down unsafe structures in Bhachau.

Talking to The Times of India at their base camp just outside Bhachau, he said that 25 unsafe buildings in Bhuj would have to be brought down, of which eight had already been blasted and requisition made to bring down eight others.

Stating that bringing down damaged structures was a tough job, the men of the regiment said, "So far we have been blasting bridges but this is the first time that we have been asked to blast houses. We can understand the feelings of the people who occupied these houses but we are helpless. They have to go down", they said.

The men have also been helping people retrieve their valuables from the damaged houses before blasting.

When asked if there were differences regarding the status of damaged buildings, Maj-General Aul said, "I am certain that there are many civil engineers who are as good a judge of the situation as we are."

The regiment was somewhere in the western sector when they got the message to be ready to help the quake-affected people of the state," recalls Amardeep, a young captain from Punjab. "Within no time we packed our things and were airlifted. Three sorties were flown to bring in men and material. The heavier cranes were brought by road", he added. The captain felt that retrieving bodies from the debris was the most horrible part of their work. But it is part of our duty, he added.

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Unsafe buildings brought down in Bhachau Tuesday, March 6, 2001

BHACHAU: 10..9..8..7..3..2..1.. blast. A deafening sound and dust fill the atmosphere, and with it come down the hopes and dreams of flats owners like a pack of cards.

While nature was cruel to these flat owners on January 26, the men of the 13 Engineers' Regiment presently in Bhachau brought down the buildings declared unsafe, on Sunday.

The homes that were built with a lot of love came crashing down within a span of less than 45 minutes. Three buildings - Oswal Avenue, AD Towers and Vinayak buildings - all three-storeyed structures, were razed to ground with help of low-intensity detonators.

"Our dreams are shattered. We do not know when we will have a house to call our own again," said a sobbing Hansaben who could not control her tears after she heard the blast."

"We can understand the emotions of the people. But they have to to be brought down," said commandant of the regiment Col Hardeep Dhanny. Almost 200 kg of explosives and 1167 detonators were used to bring down these three buildings, Col Dhanny said.

The unit has been assigned to bring down 48 buildings in Bhachau alone. Col Dhanny said two methods are used to bring down a building. One is through mechanical means while the other is through explosives.

Heavy duty machinery, including the long boom crane, are used for bringing down a building through mechanical means while low intensity explosives are used to bring down building through the explosive means. This method reduces the demolition time of a building.

To begin with, brick walls are demolished by mechanical means, and when the columns are exposed small holes are drilled into them. These are then filled up with detonators and sealed. These detonators are connected with each other and a circuit is completed. This circuit is connected to a base from where a button is pressed to trigger a blast.

At the AD Tower complex on Chirai Nala, 218 detonators were fixed on the first floor, 223 on the second floor. Altogether 56.250 kg of explosives each 25 mm in diameter and 125 grams in weight were fixed. At the second site, Oswal Avenue, built in 1996 on railway station road, 63.5 kg of explosives were used and 486 detonators drilled into the building. At the third Atvinayak building site, 240 detonators and 40 kg of explosives, were used.

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Govt gave 100% to handle the situation, says CM Tuesday, March 6, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel on Sunday asserted that the state government had made all possible efforts to handle the situation arising out of the devastating earthquake that shattered Gujarat on Republic Day and foiled sinister designs of some vested interests who wished to malign the BJP government and its chief minister.

In a scathing attack on his opponents and critics, Patel said that such elements would never succeed in their mission and it was not possible to erase the popular image of his government.

Addressing the concluding session of the two-day meeting of the state BJP's executive committee at Rajkot, he said it was shameful that the Opposition Congress party had tried to malign the government to derive political mileage, though it had not gained anything out of it.

Patel stoutly refuted the Congress charge that "there was discrimination against certain castes in distribution of relief materials" and said even today the party had not furnished any specific instances regarding its accusations.

Referring to another allegation of the Congress that the Centre has provided meagre assistance to Gujarat, Patel said it was not the case. In fact, the Union government had provided huge assistance in cash and kind to the state in dealing with this unprecedented calamity, he said.

This is for the first time after the killer earthquake that the chief minister has retaliated against the ongoing criticism in political circles regarding inapt handling of situation by the state government.

He reiterated that the government would provide temporary shelters to all the affected areas before arrival of monsoon and the work in this direction would start shortly.

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Government to probe Tata Chemicals fire Monday, March 5, 2001

RAJKOT: Deputy residence collector of Jamnagar Mukesh Pandya said on Saturday that top officials of the concerned government department would probe the devastating fire at the Tata Chemicals power plant in Mithapur on Friday morning.

He said that besides the investigations carried out by company officials, the government officials would also find out whether the plant had the necessary equipment to combat such a blaze.

Pandya said the plant that caught fire was the 58 MV captive power plant, set up in 1995 and running on coal.

With the main power plant in the factory having been damaged in the fire, production at the cement plant, soda ash plant and salt plant has been discontinued and streetlights in Mithapar has been affected.

Highly placed sources told TOI that the employment prospects and functioning of all the ancillary units would also be affected.

The soda ash plant, which is the revenue earning unit and was badly damaged in the fire, would take six to eight months to become operational, company sources told this correspondent on the condition of anonymity.

Though the exact cause of the fire has yet to be established, the superintendent of the Porbander fire brigade, Ramesh Koticha, said that the fire broke out at the seventh floor from where furnace oil had leaked.

Besides the Porbander fire brigade, the airforce also took part in extinguishing the fire.

Before the fire erupted, a blast reportedly took place in the boiler as a result which the workers started running helter-skelter.

A GEB expert in Rajkot told this correspondent that the power plant had three boilers and three turbines. The coal was burnt in the boiler to generate steam which was then sent to the turbines from where power was generated. The entire cycle was run by alternatively giving low and high pressures of steam, he explained.

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BJP executive meet begins in Rajkot Monday, March 5, 2001

RAJKOT: The two-day Bharatiya Janata Party executive meeting began here on Saturday with observance of a two-minute silence in memory of those killed in the earthquake last month as also in memory of BJP leader Rajmata Vijyaraje Scindia who died recently.

Though the morning session was devoted to getting information from districts on the quake relief measures undertaken by various BJP district units, quite a few of the district leaders were irritated at the non-delivery of relief materials.

As many as 19 district leaders gave an account of the relief measures taken by them. However, those present in the deliberations told this correspondent that around 12 of them had openly complained that relief materials promised by the visiting dignitaries never reached them. They also complained that government had failed in provide timely help. It was after a lot of persuassion that relief materials came to the victims and that too in parts.

State BJP president Rajendrasinh Rana, national vice-president J. Krishnamurty, education minister Anandiben patel and others, including Union minster for textiles Kashiram Rana, minister of state for heavy industries Vallabh Kathiria, MPs and legislators, participated in the deliberations.

The notable personality who was present in the meeting was RSS supremo in Gujarat Pravin Maniar. Many BJP leaders were stunned when Maniar made a dramatic appearance in what was basically a BJP function and the RSS had no role to play in it. Inquiries with the senior party leaders revealed that he was not invited by the party. The question is who invited him or whether he was an uninvited guest. At the same time, Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel and his second-in- command Vajubhai Vala failed to appear.

Leaders were heard as commenting that CM and Vala should have remained present as the party was to seek an account of the quake relief measures undertaken by the government. Vala also holds the revenue portfolio. A senior leader said, "Both Patel and Vala are in the firing line and would make a token appearance only."

Most BJP leaders huddled in small groups at the ground floor were heard discussing the party's strategy to counter the ways to get back people's confidence and how to salvage the party's image.

A senior leader of Rajkot was overheard by this correspondent as saying, "It does not suit a grassroot level party like the BJP to meet in an air-condtioned hall. The time is to go out to people and provide them succour and wipe their tears." The meeting was kept out of bounds for the media people and photographers.

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