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January 31, 2001 - February 1, 2001

Quake survivors get only half of rice quota Thursday, February 1, 2001

It's 2000 hours IST Wednesday. Day Six of the Aftermath in Anjaar, arguably one of the worst affected areas.

The pervasive darkness is punctuated by starlight. One has not yet heard of any plans for restoration of electricity supply.

In the darkness, attempts to locate Indian Army officials prove futile. One learns they have already retreated to tents; meanwhile, police officials have long disappeared from this area.

The overwhelming stench is nauseating: must be from fast decomposing dead bodies and carcasses. Yes, during the day, one did notice a heap of dead bodies outside the bazaar area. One also noticed locals moving about in masks.

A grief-stricken cloth merchant, Kamlesh Vora, says 11 of his relatives have died. He could find his mother's dead body, but not that of his brother.

Vora has no plans to flee from Anjaar. "My whole world has collapsed. Where and why should I run away? Even after six days, only 20 per cent of the dead bodies have been recovered. I don't know what to do," he says.

Mukul Bhatt is searching for his two brothers. Not a soul is visible around the rubble that was once their home. "Army-men don't work at night. They retire from the field at 6 pm," he says.

As one encounters locals and shares the terrifying experiences, one common strand runs through their accounts: there is a certain degree of dissatisfaction over the quality of rescue operations.

Some say they are too slow. Waiting for hours on end, to find if their dear ones trapped under the debris are alive or dead, is too traumatic, they say. "We hope to see their faces at least one last time," says a hapless bystander.

A government official makes a customary, conscientious and, yes, off-the-record confession: "Here, there's no coordination. The police, Army, non-government organisations should ideally work in tandem. Food and water are, thankfully, available but survivors are suffering out in the cold. People want material to build their own temporary shelters."

Local government officials agree that Anjaar as they knew it is history.

One saw former Gujarat chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki discussing with Sanjay Gupta, Chief Minister Keshubbhai Patel's special emissary, the contours of rescue efforts.

Solanki is disturbed that survivors are being given only five kilogrammes of grain, instead of the promised ten kilos. Gupta's ready stock-reply: "Shortage of supplies."

Besides power, there is also one more shortage: of patience among Anjaar's surviving denizens.

A resident says, "On January 26 and 27, miscreants looted the ruins of our property. But we won't call off our search for our dear ones, whether or not they are alive. It looks like it will take one more week. So be it."

Advani 'gheraoed' by Gandhidham residents Wednesday, January 31, 2001

GANDHIDHAM: Union Home Minister L K Advani was 'gheraoed' on Wednesday by the agitated residents of this town who complained of'gross neglect' by state administration in respect of rescue and relief operations.

The people told Advani that neither the district collector nor any police official visited the area since the quake hit this part of Gujarat.

Advani directed state urban development minister Parmanand Khattar, who was accompanying him, to personally look into the problems faced by the people of the town.

Gujarat's quake toll is anybody's guess Wednesday, January 31, 2001

AHMEDABAD: How many people have perished in the killer earthquake that devastated Gujarat on the Republic Day? Most estimates agree on the figure of 20,000. After that, it depends on whom you talk to.

Though defence minister George Fernandes apprehended that the toll could gallop to 100,000 mark, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had termed it as "personal assessment" of Fernandes. "It is very difficult to hazard a guess at present about the exact death toll," he said.

Refusing to hazard a guess on the toll, home minister L K Advani had said any overestimate could create panic in the minds of the people.

Gujarat home minister Haren Pandya put the toll at a conservative 25,000.

The Red Cross on Wednesday said the number of deaths in the Gujarat earthquake could touch 50,000 but was unlikely to be one lakh. Bob McKerrow, head, South Asian regional delegation of International Red Cross, said from various inputs he believed that a figure of 50,000 dead was realistic. But with thousands still buried under debris, the number of deaths may not be known for a long time.

7 more tremors felt in Bhuj; Ahmedabad rocked too Wednesday, January 31, 2001

NEW DELHI: At least seven aftershocks measuring 3.7 to 4.5 on the Richter scale were recorded in the worst-affected Bhuj district of Gujarat since Wednesday morning, meteorological officials said here on Wednesday.

The officials said Bhuj, which has been the epicentre of Friday's devastating earthquake, recorded the first quake of 3.7 magnitude at 0259 hours.

The last quake of 4.2 magnitude was recorded at 1302 hours, they said.

An earthquake of 4.5 intensity, which was recorded at 0904 hours, has been of maximum intensity so far, the officials said.

As many as 110 aftershocks measuring more than three on the Richter scale have been recorded in and around the district so far.

Tremors scare Ahmedavadis

Meanwhile, as Ahmedabad appeared limping back to normal on Wednesday, a tremor in the afternoon created panic among people who ran out of their homes, offices and establishments.

As the tremor, which shook buildings, was felt, people screamed out to their colleagues and neighbours to run out for safety.

Business establishments immediately pulled down the shutters and people came out in the open.

Earlier in the day, life looked like returning to normal with shops and business establishments opening after a closure for almost five days and traffic was as usual.

Though schools and other educational institutions have been closed till February 4, attendance was more than half in private and government offices and banks till people left in panic after the tremor at around 1510 hours.

Gujarat Government revises death toll estimate to 25,000 Wednesday, January 31, 2001

AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat government revised its estimated death toll from last week's earthquake to between 24,000 and 25,000 on Wednesday. The vast majority of those killed were in the Kutch region, where the epicentre of Friday morning's quake was located.

Gujarat home minister Haren Pandya said more than 12,000 people had been confirmed dead and added that the final figure was expected to be "somewhere around 24,000 to 25,000."

Of the 600,000 affected people in Kutch, four percent were believed to have been killed.

"Outside the Kutch region, the toll will be something like 1,500," Pandya told reporters in Ahmedabad.

Pandya's remarks came after defence minister George Fernandes had put the number of those killed as high as 100,000, with twice as many injured.

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