Air force, army pressed into relief work Friday, January 26, 2001
Indian Air Force bases have been put on high alert and army soldiers were launched into the rescue and relief operations in quake-devastated Gujarat on Friday.
An IAF spokesman said all bases in the sector, including Nallia, Bhuj and Jamnagar, were ready to swing into action once the requirements came in.
A disaster control centre has been set up at the air headquarters in New Delhi to coordinate the relief work.
Since it was a high density area for the IAF, there would be no problem in deploying aircraft for the relief and rescue operations as planes could even be requisitioned from Jodhpur and Bikaner, sources said.
Army personnel from the Western Command and Southern Command were already being pressed into operations. At many places they were on standby, waiting for the assessment to be made.
Quake's epicentre is near Bhuj, Gujarat Friday, January 26, 2001
The country's tryst with destiny on Republic Day got off on a wrong note, with many regions - from Delhi in the north, to Bhuj and Bombay in the west to Madras and Pondicherry in the south -- experiencing tremors.
R R Kelkar, director general, of Indian Meteorological Department, said, "The earthquake measured 6.9 on the Richter Scale and it was 20 km north-east of Bhuj. Tremors were also felt in Delhi and Bombay on a minor scale when compared to Bhuj."
[The United States Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Centre, however, said a preliminary magnitude of 7.9 was computed for the quake.]
The epicentre of the quake was located at 23.6 latitude and 69.8 longitude, the IMD said.
Data recorded from the earthquake have been sent to their headquarters at Delhi to work out the epicentre and exact magnitude, IMD sources added.
Gujarat experienced one of its worst days, with reports of tremors coming in almost from all over the state. According to Balubhai Shah, a resident of Jamalpur area of Ahmedabad, three people were killed and one person was injured in the earthquake. He also said a Jain Temple at Lavanya area was damaged completely. However, the police did not confirm this news. Most phone lines are dead in the capital city, leading to a communication breakdown.
The earthquake also shook Delhi and neighbouring areas an hour before the start of the Republic Day celebrations. But details of the epicentre and intensity were not immediately available on account of the holiday.
In Bombay, people ran on to the streets as buildings shuddered, lifts trembled, window panes rattled, and beds shook. FM Radio host, Vinod Advani, who was at the AIR studio at the time of the quake, fielded many phone calls from listeners anxious to know more about the quake.
When reports last came in, the police and the fire brigade were still assessing reports of casualties and damage. One report said most of the landlines in Gujarat were down following the quake. Reports of powerful jolts were also received from Jamnagar, Bhavnagar, Dhoraji, Jamjodhpur and Gondal.
In south India, an earthquake of mild intensity was recorded in several areas in Madras and Pondicherry.
The tremor, experienced at about 0900 hrs, lasted for a couple of seconds and led to a minor disruption of Republic Day celebrations in Pondicherry, with people trying to leave the stadium.
The Madras police said residents of the bustling T Nagar area ran out of their houses, feeling the floor rattle.
In neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, mild tremors were felt in Vijayawada city and surrounding areas.
However, there was no report of any damage due to tremors, which lasted for two to three seconds, police sources said.
In Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal and its neighbouring areas experienced mild tremors this morning.
No loss of life or property has been reported from anywhere, authorities said.
Reports of quake shocks have also come from Gwalior, Ujjain, Jabalpur, Hoshangabad, Indore and many other parts of the state.
An earthquake of "moderate to great intensity" shook parts of eastern India, with mild tremors felt in and around Calcutta at around 8.50 am today, director of the regional meteorological office, R N Goldar, said. The quake measured above 7 on the Richter Scale was in the "moderate to great category," he said.
Further data is awaited from the regional locations to confirm the exact intensity and time of the quake, he added.
The Goa observatory too recorded a tremor, with observatory chief S R Bajpai, confirmed the intensity of the tremor as 6.9 on the Richter Scale, between 23.6 degrees north to 69.8 degrees east.
The tremor was felt for thirty seconds, especially in multi-storeyed buildings.
No reports of any damage have been received so far, police sources added.
Ahmedabad, Surat count their dead Friday, January 26, 2001
AHMEDABAD: The earthquake, measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale, that swept through the Indian subcontinent on Friday left a trail of death and destruction in Ahmedabad and Surat, the two Gujarat cities that bore the brunt. Many multistoried buildings in both the cities were reduced to rubble.
In Ahmedabad, this correspondent saw a 10-storied building collapse like a pack of cards. Most residents, still asleep on a holiday morning, were trapped in the debris.
In Ahmedabad, at least 100 people are believed to have died. The Surat toll is being put at 32. These are very conservative figures. Both the cities have high-rise buildings.
But Vadodara escaped the wrath of nature's fury due to the fact that the city does not have many high-rises.
Detailed information from Rajkot, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar in the Saurashtra region is not yet available as phone services have been disrupted.
In many places in Ahmedabad, the alignment of stretches of roads have changed due to the quake.
State Home Minister Harin Pandya told The Times of India that the Army has been called to assist in rescue operations.
The quake saw thousands of people living in high-rises rushing out. Five hours later they were still on the roads, too scared to go back to their homes.
Over 500 die as Gujarat bears brunt of massive quake Friday, January 26, 2001
NEW DELHI: A severe earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale rolled across the entire Indian subcontinent on Friday, rocking buildings in cities situated as far apart as India's Chennai and Pakistan's Karachi. Reports quoting Gujarat government officials put the toll at over 500 in the state, reported to have borne the brunt of the quake. Four deaths have so far been reported from Sindh in Pakistan.
The US Geological Survey, however, reported on its website that the earthquake, the biggest in 150 years, had a magnitude of 7.9.
Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry also felt the tremors. A report from Pondicherry said the Republic Day celebrations were interrupted due to the quake.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has called an emergency meeting of his Cabinet at 5 p.m. to take stock of the situation.
The quake occurred at around 8.46 a.m. and was epicentred around 20 km northeast of Bhuj and 300 km southeast of Karachi, Pakistan's largest city of 14 million people, Indian seismologists said. However, meteorologists in Pakistan's Peshawar reported the epicentre was in the Arabian Sea, 1,900 km south of that city. The tremors lasted for around 30 seconds. The epicentre of the quake was located at 23.6 latitude and 69.8 longitude.
Initial reports from Ahmedabad said 12 people had been killed and scores injured as several buildings collapsed, trapping many people. Power and telephone services, too, had been disrupted and phone lines in Bhuj had snapped.
"Three buildings have fallen in our locality. One of them is just behind our house," Ushabehen Togadia, a housewife, told AFP by telephone.
"All of them were four- and five-storey buildings ... there must have been a lot of people trapped in the debris," she said.
People in Gujarat were bracing for more tremors after S.N. Bhattacharya, director of New Delhi's met office, sounded a warning.
"When such an earthquake occurs, there are bound to be aftershocks. Any building that has developed cracks should be evacuated immediately," he said in a television warning.
Ahmedabad housewife Togadia said: "We are ready to flee at the first shake."
A report from Rajkot said at least 19 students of an engineering college in Morbi area were trapped as the structure collapsed.
The quake hit 960 km southwest of Delhi, where people felt dizzy from the swaying. Residents of Mumbai rushed out and those in high-rise buildings held on to doorways as they watched their pictures and cupboards sway.
It was the same in Chennai and Pondicherry, further to the south, where people began fleeing in panic from a Republic Day parade until officials on loudspeakers calmed them.
Tremors were also felt in Vijayawada and surrounding areas. There was no report of any damage.
The quake hit just before the Republic Day parade in Delhi, where thousands of police and security personnel were on alert against a possible terrorist attack. No panic was reported at the parade, attended by top government and military leaders, and foreign guests, including Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
In Rajasthan, the quake damaged some portions of a historic fort and a haveli in Jaisalmer and caused cracks in walls in Jaipur. However, no casualty has been reported from anywhere in the state.
The back portion of historic Salam Singh Ki Haveli cracked and fell on the roof of a neighbouring house.
Two slabs of the upper portion of `Hawa Pol' inside the historic Golden Fort in Jaisalmer also fell on the ground, creating hovoc among the people residing the colony inside the fort.
Police in Mumbai said the tremors were more intense in areas bordering the Arabian Sea.
A resident, clutching his young daughter to his chest, told the Star TV network that he thought his last day had come.
"The building where I live began to heave and shake. I was worried for my daughter. I caught her and just ran and ran down to the ground. It was a deadly experience like touch and go. My daughter did not understand what was going on."
A rickshawpuller in Mumbai said: "The lamp-posts and the pillars of the building where I sleep were shaking. I have never seen anything like this before."
The earthquake also shook eastern parts of India, with mild tremors being felt in and around Kolkata.
Millions of pilgrims sleeping in tents at the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, felt the ground sway beneath them, but there was no panic.
In Pakistan, a child and an adult died when their two-storey home in Sindh city of Hyderabad collapsed from the early morning tremor, emergency rescue workers said. They were sifting through the rubble of the cement-block home searching for more people. It wasn't immediately clear whether other members of the family were missing.
Reports from Kathmandu said the tremors caused panic among residents in the Nepalese Capital as they fled their homes, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.
"I ran out of my house because the doors and furniture started to shake a lot," Ram Prasad Sharma, a Kathmandu resident told AFP.
"At first I felt dizzy and thought I was not feeling well but when things began to shake a lot for sometime I realized it was an earthquake so I yelled at other family members to go out to safety," he said. (Agencies)
Security forces searching for Pakistani couple Thursday, January 25, 2001
PALANPUR: The police and paramilitary forces are desperately trying to locate a Pakistani couple which entered the Indian territory from Mavasari village in Banaskantha district on Sunday.
A team led by District Superintendent of Police Rajendra Brahmbhatt and the Border Security Force commandant has been searching for the young couple which entered from the Walava Hill in Pakistan, located just opposite the Mavasari village.
Deputy Superintendent of Police S A Bhatt said the footprints of the two were found to be going back to Pakistan. The police were not able to establish the couple's local contact.
According to the information collected, the man has a height of 5 feet 8 inches while the girl is about 5 feet tall.
The man had donned salwar kameez and turban while the woman had worn the traditional kurti choli and salwar dupatta.
The police believe the couple might have fled from their village following non-acceptance of their
Pak agents nabbed: Meanwhile, in Ahmedabad, In a major operation on Tuesday, the city crime branch arrested two agents working for Pakistan by providing them information and supplying arms and weapons to Gujarat and other parts of the country, and booked cases of conspiracy against them.
The agents identified as Multani and Hyder were arrested from a PCO in Vatva while they were making a call, sources told TOI. However, it is not clear as to what agencies these agents were working for, and there are possibilities that they could even be employed by the ISI.
The agents are of Indian origin but were working for Pakistan for a long time and the crime branch had got information from them from various agencies. Interestingly, the crime branch had been following up on this tip-off and had also laid a trap a week back but the accused did not turn up and the bid was foiled.