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February 6, 2001 - February 7, 2001

Chaos in Rajkot over reopening of schools Wednesday, February 7, 2001

RAJKOT: Chaos prevailed in the entire city on Monday morning on the issue of reopening of schools.

While some schools opened but had poor attendance, many schools decided to extend the vacation till next Monday.

District education officer CT Aervadia had issued a statement saying schools which had not suffered any damage would open on Monday. Those with damage but having got it repaired could also start from Monday provided they had a certificate from a structural engineer, the statement had said. The schools which had suffered extensive damage were asked to remain closed till further orders.

The difference of opinion between the school managements and the district education officer led to chaos in the city.

Parents frantically tried to contact the schools which had maintained a stoic silence on the issue. Most of the them were unable to get through to the schools on phone as either it was engaged or put off the hook. This led to parents going to the schools only to be told that the vacation had been extended while some of the parents left their children at schools as they functioned normally.

Sources said that while schools like Lal Bahadur Shastri, Saint Tulsi and Merambika functioned normally, other schools like St Mary's and Nirmala convent decided to remain closed till February 11.

A statement issue by district primary education officer N J Makwana said the teachers had been asked to report for duty and help in relief operations.

Schools in Maliya, Wankaner and Morbi have been ordered to remain closed till February 11.The Saurashtra University has extended the vacation till Wednesday.

Survivors want to go back home Wednesday, February 7, 2001

RAJKOT: Where is home, wonder many survivors of the killer quake. They want to go back home, but what were once their dream homes have been razed, and they have nowhere to go. Survivors from Bhachau and Anjar, being treated at the Rajkot Civil Hospital, look askance when asked, "Where will you go after being discharged from here?".

Looking listlessly at you they seem to be asking, "Where am I supposed to go, I have lost everything."

Many of them have decided to stay back in the hospital till some alternative arrangements are made. Relatives of survivors are also in a quandary as to where to take them. While some patients have their limbs cast in plasters, others have stitches and need constant dressing. Relocation of survivors is also becoming a major hassle. Though a number of survivors have their relatives in other areas, they prefer being nearer to where their homes used to be.

The condition in Bhachau and Anjar is far from satisfactory even 10 days after the quake struck. In such conditions, people have decided to stay put at hospitals or their kin's homes.

Manohar Joshi to urge PSUs to adopt quake-hit villages Wednesday, February 7, 2001

RAJKOT: Union industries minister Manohar Joshi has said that rehabilitation of quake-affected people must be taken up on a war footing adding that Latur-type rehabilitation would be the best in the given circumstances.

Stating this after a visit to the quake-affected areas, Joshi said the damage was large-scale. He said survivors had complained of inadequate tents and urged him to take up the issue with the authorities in Delhi.

Joshi said he would urge public sector undertakings to adopt more villages for faster rehabilitation. Out of the 48 PSUs in the country, 15 to 16 had come forward to help send relief material, he said. The industries ministry had also collected Rs 7 crore, of which Rs 5 crore was in cash and Rs 2 crore by way of material help. This would be sent to the quake-affected people of the state. He said heavy machinery like cranes, dumpers etc. would also be sent in by the PSUs.

Stating that the loss to the tiles industry in Morbi was substantial, he said most industrial units were not insured against earthquakes and hence were in deep trouble. A large number of owners of tiles units had also approached the union minister to give financial assistance and relief. Joshi said there were 50 such tiles manufacturing units in Morbi and each had suffered a loss of around Rs 25 lakh. These units used to provide employment to around 300 local workers, who have also been rendered jobless.

Asked if he saw a lack of co-ordination among various agencies involved in the rescue operations, Joshi said relief operations were on expected lines. The damage was large-scale and hence it would some time to organise things.

Probe against builders may be a non-starter Tuesday, February 6, 2001

AHMEDABAD: It is a cruel irony of fate. The killers might be saved by those killed. Even as debris of the tumbling towers was removed last week in a bid to find survivors and recover bodies, it now seems that the police will have very little to base their investigations on because soon there will be nothing more than the foundation plinth to look at.

``This is akin to investigating a murder without looking at the body,'' admits a police officer.

The police have to speed up investigations on the 32 FIRs registered in the building collapse cases till Sunday evening. This is not possible right now because only two small teams are on the job and more FIRs are likely.

Preliminary investigations in not more than two buildings a day are being carried out. The teams comprise not only police officers, but also representatives from forensic science laboratories and the state government's road and buildings department.

After the preliminary investigations, the team has to look at the building plans and whether there was any deviation, besides the quality of the construction material used. Thereafter, witnesses have to be examined. ``It is a long tortuous course,'' the officer concedes.

Even as police commissioner P.C. Pandey, who is taking personal interest in the case, exudes confidence that the culprits will be booked, skeletons have begun tumbling out of the cupboard.

The investigating team has found that the three buildings which crashed in Maninagar were built by a former town development officer attached to the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA), Rajesh Shah.

Shah is now absconding. The police have also found that one of the buildings that fell under the impact of the January 26 quake had a four-feet-deep foundation plinth instead of the minimum eight feet recommended for a four-storeyed building. Another building had fewer beams and columns compared to those shown in the plan.

In the case of Sundaram Apartments in Ranip, the police have been told that its building plan itself did not find place among the AUDA documents.

The team has found that there were buildings which had been sanctioned overhead water tanks with a capacity of 4,000 litres, but had tanks constructed with a capacity of upto 20,000 litres.

Moreover, buildings where it was necessary to have 16 columns were found to have 14 or even a lesser number of columns.

Gujarat Institute of Engineers and Architects' technical services cell chairman Vijay Shah says problems could also have arisen in some buildings which had ``local architects of world class''.

``We have received over 10,000 complaints, many of them of serious damage, and we have been able to visit only 1,700 buildings so far,'' he adds.

Plea to change building laws Tuesday, February 6, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat high court on Monday issued notices to the state government on a petition seeking changes in building bylaws to incorporate the Bureau of Indian Standards' (BIS) norms.

Hearing a public interest litigation filed by Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM), a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.M. Dharmadhikari and Justice P.V. Majumdar asked the government to file its reply by February 19.

JSM, a civil rights organisation, contended that the government and concerned authorities should include such code, provided under the National Building Code (NBC) or that formed by the BIS, in the building bylaws to make the structures earthquake resistant.

The recent quake rendered many multi-storeyed buildings unfit for staying even as the authorities started to crack the whip against the errant builders.

Petitioner's counsel Mukul Sinha said the government should form a high-level committee consisting of building research experts, geologists, members of the BIS and town planners to investigate and assess the extent of damage caused to life and property due to the earthquake and recommend compensation.

JSM has also pleaded to the court to restrain the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority from granting permission for building any structure in Zone IV and V, and not beyond two floors in Zone I-III of the state without taking into account NBC's provisions of earthquake-resistant structures.

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