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January 31, 2001 - January 31, 2001

Gujarat quake to cost nation up to Rs 250 billion. Wednesday, January 31, 2001

Friday's devastating earthquake may have caused a loss of up to Rs 250 billion by way of damage to property and industry, apart from a daily production loss of up to Rs 10 billion, according to leading industry chambers.

Gravely concerned over the extensive loss of lives and property, the industry chambers have appealed to their members to donate in cash and kind, even as it demanded that government should stringently implement construction code to prevent recurrence of such disasters.

"Based on estimates of losses of different types, Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) fears the quake damage to be of the order of Rs 200-250 billion," FICCI President C Amin said on Tuesday.

Another apex body Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), said that in the area outside the Kutch region, the damage to property has been extensive in many buildings and the loss is estimated at Rs 15 billion.

"Over the next seven days the industrial units are expected to operate only at 50 per cent of its current capacity," it said adding that the economic loss for industry was primarily on account of several employees leaving the area and support services being paralysed.

Associated Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM) said that the losses sustained by the industry due to disruption of production, sales, transport and communications and revenue to the state and the exchequer would be over Rs 10 billion a day.

DEATH TOLL BY AREA Wednesday, January 31, 2001

Ahmedabad
In all, 663 bodies have been recovered from this industrial city. Thousands are believed to be trapped in the debris.
Kutch district
Rescue teams are yet to reach most areas of this district.
20,000 people believed to be killed
6,300 bodies recovered
Bhuj town
This town in Kutch district has virtually been flattened by the killer quake
15,000 people feared killed
30-40 thousand injured
Thousands trapped in the debris
Bhachau
No one is taking a count of the dead in this town 60 km from Bhuj, as there's no administration left. But people talk of a toll of between 10,000 and 30,000 dead in the town and the 73 villages in the taluka.

Centre, state differ on death toll Wednesday, January 31, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The scale of the Gujarat disaster started to emerge on Tuesday, even as the Centre and the state government differed on the death toll.

The rise in the toll estimate came in a statement by defence minister George Fernandes, who identified shoddy building standards as the fatal element underlying the level of destruction.

"If you look at the loss of human life, then one is looking at perhaps 100,000 people at the moment," Fernandes told BBC. "The number of injured would run to about twice that number if not more," the minister added.

Meanwhile, Gujarat home minister Haren Pandya stressed that the 100,000 figure was Fernandes' "personal assessment" and stood by his state government's estimate of between 15,000 and 20,000 dead. "We are not deliberately putting out a lower figure nor do we want to give an exaggerated figure," Pandya said.

Fernandes said that legislation brought in to improve the structure of buildings had been ignored, with disastrous consequences.

If the latest estimates prove to be accurate, Friday morning's temblor that devastated the prosperous state of Gujarat will go down as one of the most destructive quakes of modern times.

The quake measured 7.9 on the Richter scale.

"Our assessment is based on the body count, the number of likely missing people, information from the hospitals and estimates of people trapped under the debris," Pandya said.

In Gujarat's commercial capital Ahmedabad and the worst-hit district of Bhuj, Indian rescuers, working with foreign specialist teams, continued an increasingly fruitless search for survivors.

"It's been more than four days now, there is realistically no possibility of finding any more survivors," said Pandya.

"It's more a question of bringing out the bodies so that they can be cremated as soon as possible."

The funeral pyres have been burning all over Gujarat for the past three days, and extra firewood was being shipped in from other states to keep them fuelled.

Pandya and police officials confirmed increasing reports of looting, both of jewellery and other personal effects from bodies, as well as from shops and small businesses. "This is emerging as a concern for all the survivors," Pandya said.

"We are tightening security all over the place, as well as increasing patrols on the highways."

Gujarat police chief C.P. Singh also noted disturbing reports of groups of hungry and desparate villagers waylaying relief trucks in remote areas.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee toured the worst-hit areas of Gujarat on Monday and promised to speed up relief efforts, which he admitted had taken time to get into gear because of Friday's Republic Day holiday.

Food riots hamper quake relief work in Gujarat Wednesday, January 31, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Survivors of Friday's devastating earthquake in Gujarat have started looting vehicles carrying food packets and other relief material in several districts, even as an over-stretched administration struggles to come to terms with the magnitude of the disaster. The surviors have now been without food and water for four days.

Officials manning control rooms in Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, set up to monitor relief opeartions, said there was chaos on roads leading to Bhuj, Bachhau, Rapar and Anjar in Kutch district, where earthquake victims were waylaying vehicles arriving with relief material.

The incidents of looting, which started on Sunday, continued even as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee paid a visit to the district on Monday.

``Things may go out of hand because the people are getting desperate,'' an official in Ahmedabad said. Hundreds of trucks and other vehicles are headed for Bhuj from Ahmedabad and there are fears that these would never reach the western parts of Kutch district if the looting continues en route.

In Bachhau Taluka, where 30,000 out of a population of 40,000 is feared trapped, armed gangs have begun attacking the survivors. According to eyewitnesses, they are looting jewellery, breaking open already ravaged cupboards and threatening the survivors with choppers, knives and sticks.

Suresh Bhai Thakor from Manfara village was robbed of jewellery and cash worth Rs 75 lakh from his destroyed shop.

The locals are also complaining about lack of policing and maintenance of law and order in the entire taluka, still cut off in the absence of working telephones and power supply.

``Not a single policeman or Army man has come to Bachhau since the morning we lost our roof. Mother Nature has already played a cruel joke on us but we have people from our region looting us in inhuman way,'' Thakor said.

The local police, many of whom have lost their near and dear ones, expressed difficulty in containing the looting spree. One official wryly said, ``This was expected, wasn't it! We are helpless with a broken leg or hand and relatives still under the debris, dead or alive. How can we fight armed men in these circumstances.''

The government is now giving a tentative toll of 20,000, with Kutch accounting for most of the deaths. Rescue and relief activities are being hampered because of shortage of resources, the officials said. In Ahmedabad, municipal commissioner K Kailashnatahan said, ``We are still very short of big cranes.'' He said there was shortage of concrete-cutting equipment.

The officials said they would make ``one last attempt'' to find survivors under the debris before speeding up the work of lifting the collapsed concrete. Kailashnathan said, ``After the fourth day of the disaster, we are unlikely to find any survivors.'' He said work of lifting the debris ``would be carried out in such a way that the bodies do not get mutilated any further. We are respecting the sentiments of the families of those who have died.''

Meanwhile, a Japanese team of rescuers, which arrived here on Monday, went around the city with about 10 sniffer dogs, trying to look for life under the debris. The team was not very successful even though friends and relatives of those believed to be trapped said they had been hearing sounds in the night. ``The sentiments of the people are running high. They are not allowing the cranes to leave these sites unless the job is completely finished,'' said a civic official.

Relief material is arriving in Ahmedabad in a deluge from all over the country and abroad.

Quake toll may cross 60,000 Wednesday, January 31, 2001

BHUJ/AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat government and its agencies may have got it all wrong. Friday's earthquake is now known to have caused a much wider devastation than what was hitherto believed. As reports of the trail of death left by nature's fury in the towns and villages of Kutch continue to trickle in, there are definite indications that the toll could go up to 60,000 or more. But the government is still not revising its estimates beyond the 20,000-figure given out by Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel on Sunday.

The latest figure may sound stupendous as it comes four days after the quake. But with information gathered from eye-witnesses, the earlier figure appears grossly understated. With the survivors having fled the devastated villages out of fear and hunger, counting the dead is becoming an increasingly difficult task as bodies are still buried deep under mountains of debris.

In Bachau town, which had a population of nearly 35,000, none of the structures are intact. They have all crumbled, burying thousands. An official of the Bhuj Collectorate who travelled around the district over the last two days remarked, ``It is simply mind-boggling. All our estimates could go wrong!'' The officials are, however, not willing to go on record till there is confirmation of the number of bodies buried under the debris.

The exercise to lift the rubble hasn't even started in some villages because the survivors, if any, thought it better to run for their own lives than undertake the impossible task of removing the rubble without any equipment. In towns like Bachau, Anjar, Rapar and Bhuj, stench is emanating from decomposing bodies and rescue workers are being forced to wear masks. ``There is hardly any hope of finding survivors now,'' said an official.

Volunteers who reached Bachau on Saturday said the sounds from the debris had stopped. There could be 15,000 bodies under the debris. As many as 72 villages of Bhachau block met with a similar fate. Some of the relief workers who worked at Bhuj believe that the number of dead in the town could be around 20,000.

Anjar, which had a population of 80,000, has been flattened and it is estimated that the toll would not be less than 10,000. Thousands of bodies have already been burnt, making it difficult to arrive at the true picture.

In small towns and villages, most of the local police personnel also suffered personal losses and did not have any means left to either register or record the deaths.

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