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February 9, 2001 - February 10, 2001

'The aeroplane came...I fell' Saturday, February 10, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Vimaan aavyun, Hun dodyo, Pathra padya, Hun padyo (The aeroplane came, I ran, stones fell, I fell) is how the January 26 quake is frozen in four-year-old Amit Chhanga's memory.

Amit was brought from Ratnal, which was reported as one of the villages close to the epicentre of the earthquake, to be treated here.

His cherubic face betrays no fear, just pain once in a while. Lying in the lap of his grandmother at the hospital run by the Kutchi Jain Seva Samaj, Amit is the darling of the entire 21-bed hospital looking after patients from the ravaged areas of Kutch.

The boy just heard a loud sound and thinking it was an aeroplane, he dashed out before his father could warn him and stumbled on the doorway which came crashing down. He was buried under the rubble. "I went out to see a plane..." his eyes brighten up till you ask, "Then what happened?" and he becomes quiet as his grandmother completes the rest of the story.

"I could spot only the back of his head and got a glimpse of his tee-shirt from under the rubble," says his father Narayanbhai. Amit was the only member of his family who sustained minor injuries, the rest of them were saved.

But this little bundle of joy is not without irony. On February 2 marking his fourth birthday, the thumb and index finger of his left hand which had developed gangrene were amputated. "We also cut a cake," adds his father, grinning.

When her house in Padhar village fell, killing her only son under it, young Roshan was shattered. But lying with a fractured leg at the Kutchhi Samaj hospital, Roshan has some solace. The doctors examining her declared her two months pregnant.

A Railway employee, Gopal Morji who was visiting his in-law's place in Bhachau on the Black Friday, got stuck under the debris and fractured his leg. Yet, what is foremost on his mind is to get back home. "I have my job," he says tacitly.

Life has yet to settle down for these Kutchis who were brought by this voluntary agency to be looked after here till they are well. But all is not yet hunky dory. Halima from Anjar lost seven members of her family and has suffered nine fractures on her body, but her husband and her four kids survived. "Will you give us a house?, will you give us money?", she wants to know, eager to get back to Anjar. Close by, lies a young native of Bhachau, chanting his beads. He has lost his wife and his kids, only one son survived. But he does not want to talk about it. Face writ with fear he folds his hands as tears stream down his cheeks, "Please leave me alone..."

"Tremor or no tremor, we want to go back home," is the common refrain of these maiden visitors to this part of the state. "What do we do here in Gujarat?" asks Halima. "After all, Kutchh is our watan," asserts Narayanbhai.

Like they say in Kutchhi: "Shiyale Sorath bhalo, Unale Gujarat, Chomahe Vagad bhalo, Kutchh baare mah!" (Saurashtra is good for winters, Gujarat for in the summer, Vagad is good in monsoons but Kutchh is good throughout the year!)

Opposition leader demands President's rule in state Saturday, February 10, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Criticising the failure of the BJP-led government in handling the situation arising from the January 26 earthquake, Leader of the Opposition in state assembly Amarsinh Chaudhary has demanded that the government be dismissed and President's rule imposed in the state.

In a letter to Governor Sundar Singh Bhandari, Chaudhary alleged the BJP had tried to gain even from a situation like this. In a separate letter to President K R Narayanan, Chaudhary stated that Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel was running the government through his son, son-in-law, certain ministers and delegations of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

"There are also certain officials who in order to please the chief minister, have begun helping the Sangh Parivar in relief operations," Chaudhary alleged.

He accused the Bajrang Dal, RSS and VHP of hijacking relief material coming from outside, occupying government godowns and distributing the material as their own.

"It appears from the goings-on that the BJP wants to exploit this opportunity to resurrect its government from the dead bodies and debris of the earthquake," Chaudhary said.

Building certification to begin from Monday Saturday, February 10, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Certificates on status of quake-hit buildings in the city is likely to be issued by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority from Monday onwards.

"The certificates will be marked in green, yellow and red specifying the nature of damage. Those with no damages or with slight non-structural damages will be marked green be safe for occupation but will need seismic strengthening. While those with slight structural problems and moderate structural damage will be marked yellow with suggestions like remove plaster and grout cracks using epoxy or similar materials. Those marked yellow may also have the residents to vacate the houses.

Buildings with severe structural damage will be marked red. While some might be fit for occupation after repair work others will have to be demolished.

Inspection for about 1,100 residential complexes have been completed by 40 teams of structural, civil engineers and architects who began touring the city soon after quake struck the city.

While officials of the said that the number of teams would be increased at least by another 20. "The certification will be done by AMC and AUDA according to the recommendations of Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology. Where ever possible remedies will also be suggested in along guidelines for earthquake resistant non-engineers' construction developed by an expert group headed by Dr A S Arya, chairman of Bureau of Standard of Earthquake Engineering, Government of India.

Fresh tremors recorded in Gujarat Friday, February 9, 2001

Fresh tremors rocked parts of quake-ravaged Gujarat at 22:25 hours IST on Thursday, spreading panic through the state.

The tremors measured 5.3 on the Richter Scale, according to Indian Meteorological Department (Ahmedabad) director R K Kankane.

Panicky residents in Surat and Ahmedabad rushed out on the streets as the tremors shook buildings.

Residents said that the tremors were quite strong and several telephone lines in the state had gone dead.

There were no reports of any casualties, though a woman was hurt in the panic, police said in Ahmedabad.

Sixty five-year-old Baba Potnis, a resident of Lal Darwaja in old Ahmedabad, said, "I was sleeping when it happened. I felt that the bed shaking. It lasted only for a few seconds, but I can say that the magnitude would definitely be around 5 on the Richter Scale.''

Potnis said that all residents had come out and were scared.

''As we do not live in a high-rise building, our neighbourhood feels a little safe. I called my relatives in Satellite, Drive-in and Ambavadi, but no one answered the telephone. Even they must have felt the tremors and must be outside."

rediff.com's Surat correspondent Vikram Vakil said over the telephone that he and his family had also come out on the streets. "The streets are teeming with panicky residents. People who had barely moved into their homes after the January 26 quake and were reliving normal lives are frightened again."

Quake-hit villages will not be shifted: CM Friday, February 9, 2001

GANDHINAGAR: Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel said on Wednesday that villagers affected by the powerful quake "would not be forcibly shifted" to a new site.

The CM gave the assurance at a video-conferencing session with Kutch collector Anil Mukim and district quake relief in charge L Mansingh even as the first meeting of the disaster task force held under his chairmanship decided here that common village land would be given to those wanting to start life afresh at a new site.

A full-scale relief package for the quake-affected is expected to be announced on February 10, before which Kutch collector Anil Mukim would be submitting a report to the CM enlisting the view of the rural people on this score.

Mukim told the CM during the live video-conferencing, "Majority of the villagers whose houses have been destroyed seem to be of the view that they should start their lives anew at a new site."

Mukim also said though 25,000 tarpaulins have been distributed in Kutch - 40 per cent in villages and the rest in towns - "there is tremendous demand for tents. People want tents be given to them even if it takes a couple of days. Even now, nearly 1.5 lakh tents are needed. Despite best efforts, we are unable to buy tents."

While admitting shortage of tents, the CM said: "About 450 tents in four aircraft have reached here. They are being dispatched."

The CM, who was to go to Bhuj on Wednesday, decided to stay back in Gandhinagar, holding meetings throughout the day. An official said, "He would be going to Surendranagar district, which he has still not visited, on Thursday."

Mukim also informed the CM that the district had "enough food supply material". He said trading activities had begun in small sheds in Bhuj, though in Anjar the situation was much better. Offices in Bhuj were working in eight make-shift containers, and in Bhachau, Rapar and Anjar in one container each. In Bhachau, Rapar and Gandhidham the work on retrieving bodies had ended. In Bhuj, 90 per cent was over, and in Anjar another two days would be needed. As for villages, nearly all bodies had been recovered, he informed.

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