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January 29, 2001 - January 29, 2001

Sabarmati bypoll cancelled Monday, January 29, 2001

The Election Commission on Monday cancelled the February 19 assembly by-election in the Sabarmati constituency of Gujarat in view of the grave situation in the state following the devastating earthquake.

Senior Election Commission officials said the decision was taken because of the state administration's preoccupation with the relief and rescue operations in the quake-hit areas.

The election process had already been set in motion in Sabarmati and January 31 was the last date for filing of nominations.

The commission had, on January 19, announced by-elections in 11 constituencies spread over eight states on February 18. These are Siwalkhas (SC), Sarsawa and Bhartana in Uttar Pradesh, Giddalur and Badvel in Andhra Pradesh, Asthawan in Bihar, Marwahi (ST) in Chhatisgarh, Sabarmati in Gujarat, Ramgarh in Jharkhand, Hindoli in Rajasthan and Kadamtala in Tripura.

Gujarat will never be the same again Monday, January 29, 2001

This article is by Achyut Yagnik
The earthquake of Republic Day and the following series of tremors in Gujarat are a shattering experience in many ways. Fear and trembling, death and destruction. But above all loss of self-confidence leading to conflict within - heart and head pulling in opposite directions.

Hope and despair come intermittently. Maybe another tremor would not come, even if it comes, the intensity would not be the same and damage and destruction would not be of the same magnitude. For those who are less fortunate, who have lost near and dear ones, enough is enough. For them, it is the present and no question of hope against hope now.

In Ahmedabad, the two emotions of hope and despair, of knowing and the fear of the unknown are both intensified and soothed by the television and the radio. The rumour mill is working overtime. "More tremors at 10 tonight, my neighbour's aunt's brother said someone saw it on BBC" and everyone was out on the streets at 10 p.m. Then everyone would turn "scientific" and say,"Such things cannot be predicted or else would they not have told us before the 26th?"

Gujarat will not be the same again. Cities in Kutch - Bhuj, Anjar and Rapar -and the surrounding villages are not recognisable. The same Anjar became a ghost city as a result of the 1819 earthquake which was the last big earthquake before this one. The western-most city of Kutch, Lakhpat, which was once a great harbour, was destroyed in that earthquake, never rehabited and stands as a testimony to that quake.

Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat, has not met the same fate. The walled city of Ahmedabad is virtually untouched. Death and destruction visited "new" Ahmedabad - both the industrial area evolved during the latter half of the 19th century and the posh areas on the western bank of the Sabarmati developed during the 20th century.

Neglect, negligence and an over-confidence coming from the notion that we were on no earthquake fault line left Ahmedabad ill-prepared. In the last 25 years, the upwardly mobile Ahmedabadis reached skywards, preferring flats and high-rise apartments over the old-fashioned tenements and bungalows. Now everyone is having second thoughts.

Writing is not easy at this moment. The memory of those two minutes and the fear of the unknown is so overwhelming that existential angst takes over the heart and head.

Achyut Yagnik is an Ahmedabad-based writer and social activist.

Hope of finding victims fading. Monday, January 29, 2001

Hope of finding victims inside the debris is fading. Its almost 82 hours since the earthquake striked gujarat. The rescue workers are working round the clock to find anybody alive.

Earthquake survivors numb, fears of looting Monday, January 29, 2001

BHUJ - Survivors of India's worst earthquake wavered on Monday between fear and numb resignation as the full impact of the disaster that has killed up to 20,000 people unfolded.

In Bhuj, which bore the brunt of the quake, thousands of people woke from their third night in the open, still haunted by the fear of aftershocks.

Most had spent the night around bonfires, some with white bundles next to them containing bodies of relatives and friends.

In quake-flattened villages outside Bhuj, relief teams had still not reached survivors desperate for assistance.

"We've got no food, no water," truck driver Yadav Raja Bhai said in a village 30 km (20 miles) from Bhuj. "We've had no government help here."

Rescuers worked round the clock to locate trapped survivors and clear away bodies before disease set in. Police expressed fears of looting with many homes empty.

In Bhuj itself and remote villages surrounding it, trucks brought in firewood for cremations.

The Indian goverment has launched the country's biggest disaster relief operation but remote areas had to fend for themselves.

In places where the relief supplies flowed in, hundreds of people queued before giant cauldrons from which aid workers served rice and a lentil curry.

Rumours making life terrible. Monday, January 29, 2001

Panic struck in many districts and towns of Gujarat on Monday morning following rumours that an earthquake was about to strike them.

Since 11:00 am, thousands of people took to camping out in the open, in the fear that tremors were about to strike.

The panic lasted well into the small hours of the day, before realisation dawned that there was no imminent danger.

Rumours are making life terrible for the people. These rumours are spreading very fast in the entire community. The situation is really complex and no body has the answer.

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