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February 3, 2001 - February 3, 2001

Quake damages Mahatma's ancestral house Saturday, February 3, 2001

The ancestral house of Mahatma Gandhi in Porbander, Saurashtra, has been partially damaged in the worst-ever earthquake that rocked the Kutch region of Gujarat on Republic Day.

"The ancestral home of the Father of the Nation has developed some cracks due to the quake, but the overall historical structure is intact," Porbander District Collector M V Joshi told the Press Trust of India.

"Fortunately, Kirti Mandir, the national monument built in the memory of Gandhiji in 1950 adjacent to his birthplace by industrialist Nanjibhai Kalidas Mehta is safe," he added.

The house where Kasturba, Gandhi's wife, was born has also developed some cracks, but there is no danger to that structure either, he said.

He said that though only nine people were killed in last week's quake in the district, 80 per cent of the houses in 18 villages had been razed to the ground. "Our prime concern is to provide them with shelter," he added.

Joshi said people have been shifted to temporary tents and all steps were being taken to provide proper sanitation to prevent the outbreak of epidemics. Medical teams are visiting nearby villages at least once a day for routine check-ups of the affected people.

Kutch Collector transferred, Baroda man takes over Saturday, February 3, 2001

Baroda Collector Anil Mukim on Friday took over as the Collector of Kutch after the Gujarat government on Friday transferred incumbent Kamal Dayani to the state Industries Department.

The state government is apparently not happy with the manner in which Dayani, a 1990 batch officer, handled the situation after the January 26 earthquake.

Anil Mukim is a 1985 batch officer whose first posting was as Sub Divisional Magistrate in Bhuj, the headquarters of Kutch, between 1986-89.

Speaking about his priorities, Mukim told, "It is a challenging assignment. I have set out three priorities to tackle the situation."

"The first and immediate priority is to arrange shelter for the quake affected people, tents and blankets."

"In the medium term, we have to plan for the coming summer and monsoon," he said.

"In the long term, we have to rebuild Bhuj," Mukim added.

Shops open in Bhuj for the first time Saturday, February 3, 2001

Saturday morning, Epicentre Bhuj crawled past the immediate aftermath of The Gujarat Tragedy into the future.

For the first time after the quake, Bhid Bazaar was back in business, albeit for a few hours. One spotted ganthia, a typical Gujarati snack, being bought off the store-shelves. "This is a sure sign of people coming to terms with the reality and trying to get on with reconstruction of life," a shop-keeper said.

Shops that survived the deadly tremors were cleaned and the grain market resumed operations.

Lavendru Man Singh, chief coordinator, relief operations, said positive thinking has returned to officials and bureaucrats involved in care. "We have taken some major decisions last night to restore normalcy."

Some commercial banks, he said, will resume work on Saturday. The Bhuj District Bank has erected tents where a few branches (whose buildings were affected) will resume banking operations. Mobile banking services would reopen within a week.

At the Jivapar village, plans are afoot to reopen schools under trees if Saturday is sunny with with clear skies. The last few days have been partly cloudy. Here, the schoolteachers were among those who perished. So Class XII students have been asked to double up as teachers for classes VIII, IX and X.

Meanwhile, the government has postponed the higher secondary school board examinations.

Gandhi Associates, a firm specialising in erecting exhibition halls like those at Delhi's Pragati Maidan, has been asked to pitch temporary stalls. These will help shopkeepers among the quake-hit to resume their businesses.

In keeping with the community-wise pattern of Gujarat society, shamiana experts from Rajasthan are setting up eight makeshift community halls for respective groups. These halls would have toilets and essential electricity fixtures like lights, and will offer gaddars (thick blankets) to survivors.

People who are in a position to make their own arrangements are being encouraged to do so. It is learnt several families are keen to erect temporary shelters of their own near the debris of their households. "They want to maintain a vigil for their remaining belongings," Singh said.

The defence secretary has apparently asked the ministry's tent-making factory in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, to work non-stop and produce adequate number of tents for the survivors in Gujarat.

Although the Bhuj authorities have 300 tents, they are not being used. "Their number is not big enough to take care of the needs of all. We don't want people to fight for the tents," Singh said.

People who want to stay outdoors are provided with thick plastic sheets. Temporary identity cards would be given to survivors so that the incoming aid from international community is not misused.

At the Jubilee Grounds, the Sintex company, maker of pre-fabricated overhead water-tanks, has erected two semi-permanent rooms to be used for treating patients. The company is planning to build 50 rooms in all. Doctors and paramedics tend to about 1,000 patients at the grounds in makeshift shelters.

When ready, the complex will serve as a replacement for the General Hospital that has been laid to waste. Multinational electronics major Philips has donated portable x-ray machines for use in the quake-hit areas.

In the context of concerns about the spread of epidemics, Singh said Bhuj's civic body, riven with internal politics, has not been functioning even before the quake. This has compounded the problem of lack of civic amenities.

After the quake, two senior officials have been asked to oversee municipal works. One of them is Ashwin Mehta, deputy municipal commissioner, Surat.

Surat was once considered one of the filthiest Indian cities. However, the outbreak of plague in 1995 led to a positive transformation in the standards of civic amenities. Officials expect a similar miracle here. "Bhuj will be rebuilt as a model city," Singh said.

Astrologer predicting another quake arrested Saturday, February 3, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Police on Friday arrested an astrologer here for making dire predictions of another earthquake looming in the quake-ravaged Gujarat.

The grim warning by Ambalal Patel was published on the front pages of prominent regional dailies in Gujarat a week after thousands died in an earthquake which decimated whole cities.

"He was arrested for spreading fear and disturbing the peace," Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel told reporters.

Anywhere between 30,000 to 100,000 are estimated to have died in the earthquake in Gujarat last Friday.

Quake, followed by flood Saturday, February 3, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat may never be the same again. In more ways than one. For example, the groundwater level has registered an increase in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar. Besides, water springs have opened up in several places in Little Rann, altering the water level over the salt pans and changing the topography.

Both in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, the automatic water level recorders -- Peiso meters -- fitted by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) showed that the water level has risen by 2.5 cms after the earthquake.

Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) officials and city-based scientists said the time taken to pump groundwater has become lesser. It took the AMC reportedly one-third of the time to pump out the water since the quake, which could suggest possible rise in the aquifer levels.

CGWB scientists said two shallow aquifer tubewells of 150 mm diameter, one at Sola near Ahmedabad and the other at Gandhinagar, are nearly 60 metres deep. "The reading at 6 am on January 26 was about 2.5 cms less than what was found at noon. The water level became shallower" says hydrologist V S R Krishna.

However, he warns that it is not possible to attribute the same to the earthquake without proper examination.

Reacting to reports of fluctuations in the water table, springing of fresh and saline water, scientist S V Ragahava Rao said "there are possibilities of fresh water coming up as aquifers burst or collide with each other". He said that such phenomena have been observed at a number of earthquake-hit places due to hydrological disturbances.

CGWB scientists are collecting data from many of the 70 recorders fitted last year throughout the state under a project to measure water level fluctuations.

Meanwhile, reports have come in from the Little Rann about saline water springing at a few places. "I went to a number of places from where reports were received, mainly between Maliya and Zinzuvada. I found extremely salty water, even saltier than that found in the Rann. It was brownish in colour and is slowly turning black. It was spread as if it has sprung up," said Devjibhai Dhamecha, a wildlife photographer from Dhrangadhra who went to Little Rann for relief work.

He found such springs near Bajana, between Bajana and Patdi (near Kharaghoda), near Kuda and Kopardi. While the water that sprang out has dried up at most places, at few places it has formed a pool.

In Little Rann, salt pan workers, or the Agariyas, had to retreat as the water level increased near Maliya and Surajbari.

Officials of SWATI, a non-government organisation which is working in over 200 villages in Halvad, Patdi and Dhrangadhra near Little Rann, have also received reports about increase in the water level.

Similarly, a fresh water jet has been reported from near Bhachau in Kutchh.

Apart from water, reports have been also received about oozing of `volcanic mud' at dozens of places. Scientists deny that this is lava. C P Rajendran of the Trivandrum-based Earth Science Studies Centre said, "There are many places where the water table is close to the ground and the water spills above the ground due to accelerated movement. After some time it bursts and we get water on the surface. This has been reported after many major earthquakes. It is known as liquification or fluidisation of soil, where sediments become fluid".

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