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January 29, 2001 - January 29, 2001

Indian couple name new son "Bhukamp" Monday, January 29, 2001

AHMEDABAD: A boy born at the same time as the massive earthquake struck Gujarat has been named Bhukamp or "Earthquake" by his parents, the Asian Age newspaper reported on Sunday.

The baby boy was born in Ahmedabad at 08:46 am (0316 GMT) on Friday -- the precise time that a massive quake measuring up to 7.9 on the Richter scale hit the state, killing an estimated 15,000 people.

He was the first child of Yatin and Riddhi Pandiya, an architect-doctor couple.

"The due date (for the baby's birth ) was February 9," Dr Rajan Joshi, the gynaecologist attending on Riddhi Pandiya, was quoted by the Asian Age as saying.

"The mother went into labour (on Friday) ... We admitted her and started a caesarean operation," Joshi said.

However, just as the operation was about to get underway, the quake struck and the lights went out, Joshi said.

"We had no idea what was going on outside. The delivery was conducted in pitch darkness and successfully."

According to the paper, the idea to name the baby after the quake was the mother's.

Bhachau taluka left to fight it out on it's own. Monday, January 29, 2001

BHACHAU: While hordes of VIPs, VVIPs, national and international media representatives, rescue workers and the Army rushed to rescue the people of Bhuj, nearly two lakh residents of Bhachau taluka were left to fight it out on their own in the absence of any outside help.

Bhachau town, which 'was' a taluka headquarters in the Kutch district, is located barely 60 km away from Bhuj, if one goes by road. Once known for the temples and philanthropic spirit of the residents who have large number of families settled either in Mumbai or abroad, Bhachau 'ceased' to exist on Friday morning. And nobody came to rescue for at least 30 hours, by when most of those buried under the debris had died.

The destruction here is absolute. No man-made structure - temples, mosques, hospitals, police station, shops, houses - has survived.

It is impossible to estimate the number of dead in the town and the neighbouring 73 villages as there is no administration worth the name.

On Dudhai Road on the outskirts, the Gujarat Electricity Board station has collapsed while Vagad Seva Samaj Hospital is a heap of cots sandwiched between collapsed ceiling and the damaged floor. The once famous Garbi Chowk is a make-shift crematorium, eatery and resting place for the police.

Hand carts, bedspreads and even mattresses pulled out of the debris provide the only succour to the people.

State irrigation minister Nitin Patel who visited the town was surrounded by angry relatives of the victims, which led to some angry scenes.

An hour later, the minister brought a bulldozer, the first machine to be pressed into relief operations.

Mild tremors in Bhuj yet again Monday, January 29, 2001

A series of mild tremors hit Bhuj late Sunday night, two days after a devastating earthquake flattened most buildings in the area, killing thousands.

There was no immediate reports of casualties or damage to property.

The tremors, measuring 3.3 and 4.4 on the Richter scale, were experienced in Bhuj and surrounding areas, between 2010 and 2255 hours, Ahmedabad Met Department director R K Kankane stated.

He said the epicentre was 40 km north north-east of Bhuj.

Konkane said Sunday's tremors were felt only in Kutch district.

He said that from Friday, 82 jolts have been reported till Sunday night, of which two had an impact.

About 50,000 people flee homes in Ahmedabad Monday, January 29, 2001

AHMEDABAD: Over 50,000 people living in high rise buildings in the quake-hit parts of Ahmedabad city have left their houses fearing fresh tremors.

Panic-stricken people have vacated their houses since Friday and either moved out to open spaces or to other safer places.

People living in about 10,000 flats in nearly 412 high rise buildings have moved out, civic sources said.

High rise apartments in satellite, drive-in, Vastrapur, Ambavadi and Vasna areas have developed cracks.

The Ahmedabad municipal corporation as well as the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority have issued notices to the residents of the vulnerable buildings to keep them vacant for the next 15 days.

People have taken shelter in open spaces and gardens, alongside the highway and in the make-shift shelter homes.

Toll could go up to 20,000 Monday, January 29, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The devastation in Friday's earthquake could be much more than the estimates. Thousands of bodies have been found burried under debris in far-flung areas of Gujarat, particularly in the Kutch region which bore the brunt of the catastrophe.

Although the death toll in what is seen as the worst-ever quake to hit the country since independence was officially put at ``around 10,000'' by chief minister Keshubhai Patel, it is feared it could go up to twice that figure. Officially, the number of those seriously injured has been put at 15,380.

Relief work in Bhuj and other smaller towns of Kutch district, which have been razed to the ground, has been badly affected as communication systems are down and there is no electricity. All the 147 telephone exchanges in Kutch were hit and only a handful of lines in Gandhidham and Bhuj were functional. The telecommunications department has said it would take at least two more days to restore phones in Bhuj and Gandhidham.

Apart from Bhuj where nearly 90 per cent of the buildings came crashing down, there are reports that several towns like Rapar, Anjar, Bachhau and scores of villages have been wiped out from the face of the earth. There is not a single structure standing in some of these areas, an aerial survey has found.

The fate of 300 children, who were taking out a Republic Day procession in Anjar, is not known as buildings on the street collapsed over them from both sides.

There are reports of massive loss of life and property in Radhanpur (Banaskantha), Mehsana and Morbi (Rajkot). The chief minister carried out an aerial survey of towns in Kutch.

The state transport corporation is rushing 150 buses to Kutch to evacuate the injured. Also, 100 trucks mounted with plastic water tanks are being rushed to the region.

In the absence of government machinery, it is the local people who have carried out most of the rescue operations in Kutch. In Anjar, about 80 per cent houses in the town's centre, which has a population of 25,000, have crumbled. In Bachhau, which has a population of 10,000, there is hardly a standing structure and so is the case with Rapar.

All the electricity towers in Kutch and the sub-stations have been destroyed and it will take a massive effort to restore power to these areas. Twenty big generators have been despatched to these areas along with large quantities of relief material, doctors and medical staff.

In Morbi, the historic Mani Mandir and Durbargarh and the famous tower of Morbi have caved in. More than 300 deaths have been reported from the Morbi town alone.

Gujarat has sought an immediate ad hoc payment of Rs 500 crore to tackle the situation, Union textile minister Kashiram Rana said. A cash relief of Rs one lakh has been sanctioned by the state government for the next of kin of those killed.

The armed forces deployed over 4,700 defence personnel, 40 aircraft, helicopters and naval ships in Gujarat. Defence minister George Fernandes and chief of air staff A Y Tipnis were camping at Bhuj to direct relief operations.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee termed the quake as a "calamity of national magnitude" and said the emergency would be dealt with on a war footing.

Indian Airlines and Alliance Air have decided to carry ``free of cost'' all relief materials to Gujarat besides operating additional flights there. Railway minister Mamata Banerjee announced that five special trains will leave Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Howrah for Bhuj. She said 24-hour railway information centres have been opened at various cities.

The Reserve Bank of India has relaxed the limits on ways and means advances and overdraft rules for Gujarat till the end of February to facilitate relief work.

Switzerland is sending sniffer dogs to Ahmedabad to help trace people buried under the debris of high-rise buildings. The International Committee of Red Cross has already despatched a mobile surgical hospital while its Indian chapter has sent 30,000 blankets, agriculture secretary Bhasker Barua told reporters after a meeting of the Crisis Management Group.

The US embassy in New Delhi has donated $25,000 to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund.

Several state governments too announced hefty financial assistance. Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Karnataka, have decided to donate Rs five crore each, Jharkhand, Rs 1.5 crore, Chhattisgarh and Orissa Rs one crore each and Himachal Pradesh has sent a draft of Rs 51 lakh.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi Saturday left for Gujarat and despatched a high level team to assess the damage. She asked the Congress-ruled states, Pradesh Congress Committees and partymen to immediately rush relief materials to the quake-hit state.

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