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January 29, 2001 - January 29, 2001

"The number of Aftershocks in Gujarat decreasing, no case to Panic" says Dr G J Nair. Monday, January 29, 2001

The rate of aftershocks following the January 26 earthquake in Gujarat has fallen considerably and the region was stabilising, according to the seismology department of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

"Today's rate is two per hour as compared to 10 per hour last Friday," Dr G J Nair, head of the department, told PTI.

Nair said Bombay falls in Zone IV and precautions should be taken in a planned manner and people should not get panicky.

Meanwhile, the chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, Dr Anil Kakodkar told PTI that the intensity of the quake was so great and the energy released so enormous that "no man-made underground bomb can match it".

So far, more than 270 after-shocks have recorded, he added.

Urgent need of Plaster of Paris in Bhuj, Gandhidham and Anjar Monday, January 29, 2001

Doctors in Bhuj, Gandhidham and Anjar have made an urgent plea for Plaster of Paris, without which they are finding it difficult to help the scores of injured who require their help.

A makeshift hospital has been set up in Bhuj's Jubilee Ground. RSS organiser Keshav Patel, who was present there, told rediff.com, "The treatment of many injured people is incomplete because of lack of Plaster of Paris. The doctors are using wooden sticks and ropes to support the broken and injured limbs of their patients, after which we are sending them to hospitals in Rajkot and Ahmedabad.

The Bhuj civil hospital has been completely destroyed by the quake. At least 700 of the people who reached the Jubilee Ground were emergency cases; hundreds of others have come with broken legs and hands.

D V Mehta, a blood bank trustee in Rajkot, said: "So far, we have sent 700 bags of blood from Rajkot. We are also organising for more blood to be sent from Bombay."

Rescue efforts intensified, toll may cross 20,000 Monday, January 29, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Rescue teams, including those from foreign countries, intensified efforts to locate survivors under mountains of debris in Kutch district, even as the death toll in the devastating earthquake was expected to go beyond 20,000.

A total of 6,300 bodies has, so far, been retrieved from the rubble of flattened houses in Kutch district, including Bhuj and other parts of the state.

Reports say that in many cases relatives were recovering the bodies and arranging their cremation or burial on their own without information to authorities.

About 660 doctors, including 110 specialists, and 780 para-medical personnel have reached Kutch district with 200 ambulances to provide succour to the injured survivors.

Twenty thousand of the injured have already been operated upon. A number of injured people have also been shifted from the Kutch area to nearby Mehsana, Rajkot and Patan hospitals.

Two navy ships in Kandla port have been converted into hospitals. Four ships had arrived there with relief supplies while the fifth one was on its way.

Although three days have passed since the killer earthquake, with its epicentre near Bhuj, struck Gujarat, panic-stricken people from the Kutch region and also the state capital continue to migrate to safer areas in view of forecast of further tremors.

Those who have not moved out, prefer to stay in the open or in makeshift shelters fearing further damage to their dwellings in aftershocks.

In the Kutch district, village after village in Bachau and Anjara talukas had been flattened and connecting roads had developed wide cracks.

Reports from Bhuj say Army has engaged three columns of Bombay Safire and another battalion of infantry would be joining on Monday.

Foreign relief teams have started operations here. A German team consisting of 27 persons and six sniffer dogs and armed with modern gadgets like life-sensors, electric hammer and stone saw is already engaged in relief work on a war footing. The UN, ICRC and Swiss teams are arriving on Monday.

Meanwhile, the deputy collector of Gandhidham, S K Rathore, has said there are reports of bursting of a gas pipeline in Kandla. The port has suspended all operations.

More tremors forecast for the next 48 hours Monday, January 29, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Gujarat's nightmare doesn't seem to end. A series of aftershocks measuring up to 5.9 on the Richter scale rocked Kutch, Ahmedabad and some other parts of Gujarat on Sunday, even as Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel asked people to be alert following forecasts of more powerful tremors in the next 48 hours.

The state meteorological department said there were 15 fresh tremors on Sunday alone, taking the total tremors since the earthquake on Friday to 77. Two of the fresh tremors on Sunday - one at 6.32 a.m. and the other at 4.41 p.m. - measured 5.9 and 4.7 on the Richter scale respectively. Lakhs of people in Ahmedabad have now deserted their homes and are either sleeping out in the open or inside cars. Many have moved in with friends and relatives.

Till late evening, exact details of the destruction caused by the aftershocks was not known. But there were reports that some buildings in Kutch and North Gujarat, already weakened by Friday's quake, had collapsed.

Keshubhai said at least ten districts of Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat had been badly affected by Friday's quake and huge loss of life and property reported from these places.

Patel did not rule out the possibility of the toll crossing the 20,000-mark as more and more bodies were being recovered by the rescue teams from the debris in the worst-affected Bhuj, Bhachau, Rapar, Anjar, Morbi-Maliya and parts of Patan, Banaskantha and Mehsana districts.

The government, however, seems to be groping for answers as far as the magnitude of the disaster is concerned with Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel admitting for the first time that the toll could be as high as 20,000.

Nearly 50,000 people have been injured and lakhs have been rendered homeless after Friday's earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale. As many as 20,000 people had undergone surgery.

While 15,000 people may have died in Bhuj alone, in neighbouring Anjar Taluk, eight of the 400 children caught in the rubble of collapsed buildings in a narrow lane were rescued. The rest are presumed dead.

In the Maninagar suburb of Ahmedabad, 10 children buried under the rubble of their collapsed school building were rescued along with 13 others in a nearby building. However, operations to rescue about 40 more children from the same school were given up after the recovery of some more bodies as no sign of life could be detected in the rubble.

The chief minister said so far 6,072 bodies had been extricated all over the state. Over 5,000 Army personnel were engaged in relief operations in Kutch and Ahmedabad, including in areas like Anjar, Morvi, Dhrul, Bacharu, Jodrian and Dharandara. The Indian Air Force continued relief operations, evacuating more than 180 injured by helicopters to hospitals.

He said the state had sought a Rs 500-crore Central assistance for tackling the situation. The chief minister said there was fear of an epidemic breaking out in Bhuj.

Patel said experts' teams from the United Kingdom, Russia, Switzerland and Turkey were helping in rescue operations and removal of the debris in Bhuj district and Ahmedabad.

Search and rescue experts from Turkey, which suffered a major quake less than two years ago, were among the first foreigners to arrive in Ahmedabad.

A 60-member team from Switzerland, along with nine sniffer dogs, was deployed in Ahmedabad immediately after its arrival on Saturday night.

A member of the Swiss relief team, Michele Mercier, said the team has rescued a woman and a child from the rubble of a collapsed building in the satellite area of Ahmedabad.

The team was likely to leave for Bhuj to extend assistance in rescuing people with the help of their telecommunication equipment, she said.

According to S K Shelar, adviser to the chief minister, other teams from the UK (69 members), Russia (20 members) and Turkey (75 members) had arrived and German and French teams were on their way to the state.

Foreign experts' teams were being deployed in Kutch district to undertake rescue operations and remove debris, he said. The team from Turkey had already left for Bhuj.

The rescuers dug through the rubble in a desperate search for survivors but there was little hope in many places.

France was sending two field hospitals with a 46-member medical team to help relief operations. The would be in the city by late night.

Meanwhile, the Gujarat government has set up an external aids coordination cell for the coordination of foreign aid for the victims, with Shelar as its chief co-ordinator.

Industries Commissioner Kirit Shelat is a member of the cell to monitor foreign aid, the chief minister said.

The cell has been set up at Annexi Circuit House in the Shahibaug area of Ahmedabad, with telephone numbers 2854765, 2854766, 2854767, and fax number 2854768.

Quake to hit Gujarat gold trade, not crops Monday, January 29, 2001

- The earthquake that ravaged Gujarat could hit its gold trade, already suffering the impact of falling farmers' incomes, traders and analysts said on Sunday.
Many people would spend their money on rebuilding their homes or helping relatives, not on precious metal, following the quake on Friday that ripped through the agricultural and industrial coastal state, analysts said.

"Gold is always linked with prosperity. Without incomes, what will one buy?" said one trader.

Ahmedabad, Gujarat's largest commercial city, is the main hub of Indian gold imports.

The quake, the most powerful to strike India in half a century, killed up to 20,000 people and injured thousands more. Large areas of towns and cities were reduced to rubble.

Before the earthquake, gold consumption had already been depressed by a severe drought that hit the income levels of rural Indians who form the bulk of the consumers. The drought's effects were also expected to keep demand subdued in 2001.

Dealers had forecast India's demand would rise only marginally in 2001 to about 850-900 tonnes from an estimated 850 tonnes in 2000. Now, the quake would only subdue trade further.

"There is a massive loss of income for people which will reduce the demand for gold," he said. "This is coming over and above the loss of income through drought for two years in a row."


NO WEDDING RUSH

Another trader said in Ahmedabad the expected rise in demand for gold during the wedding season which lasts from January 15-February 15 now might not occur.

India, the world's largest gold consumer, meets most of its demand through imports.

However, commodity analysts said the state's main agricultural crop, oilseeds, would not be affected by the quake.

"The earthquake has only affected buildings. The crop is not affected by it," B.V. Mehta of the Solvent Extractors Association of India, told Reuters. He said the only oilseeds crop now in Gujarat were small quantities of rapeseed/mustard, groundnut and castor, harvested in February and March.

Gujarat harvests some 200,000 tonnes of rapeseed and 300,00-400,000 tonnes of rapeseed in summer. India annually grows two oilseeds crops, the bulk of them in winter.

Mehta said because of the drought, due to the failure of monsoon rains, the sowing of oilseeds in the state was already down by 50 percent from normal.

Analysts said even before the quake, crop conditions were not bright due to the drought. "The earthquake is not going to substantially affect the crop conditions in Gujarat," said one.

But he said some earthquake traumatised farmers might migrate to other areas, abandoning their crops.

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