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January 31, 2001 - January 31, 2001

Quake damage could be over Rs 10,000 cr: Advani Wednesday, January 31, 2001

GANDHIDHAM: The Centre on Wednesday indicated that the property loss in the Gujarat earthquake could be more than Rs 10,000 crore. "The loss can be in five figures," home minister L K Advani, who arrived here on a two-day tour of the quake-hit areas said.

Asked about Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel's communication to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the loss estimates, Advani said, "We are still assessing the damage and devastation suffered by the state and the loss of lives."

"It is impossible to estimate how many people have been killed," Advani said, adding that property, trade and business had been completely destroyed in different parts of the state, especially in the Kutchh region.

Patel, in his letter, had said almost complete destruction of property had taken place in Bhuj, Rapar and Anjar in Kutchh and Morvi in Rajkot district. "The value of private property destroyed by the earthquake is over Rs 6000 crore," Patel said.

The chief minister said that the people would have to be provided financial assistance to enable them re-enter their business and economic activities.

Due to the severe drought for the second successive year and the earthquake, the state did not have enough resources to meet the expenses of relief and rehabilitation work.

"This burden is way beyond the the capacity of the state government," Patel said in his letter.

Gandhidham looks like a ghost town, wearing a deserted look.

Almost entire population of the township has been camping in open air for the fifth day on Wednesday, as activists of non-governmental organisations went around distributing food packets to the harried and shocked people.

They survived on tomatoes and water for five days Wednesday, January 31, 2001

A bottle of water and a few tomatoes is all that kept a young couple and their six-year-old daughter going till they were miraculously brought alive from the rubble of their house in Gandhidham Tuesday after more than 100 hours under the debris.

40-year-old Chitra, her husband Silveira Chelappan and their daughter were in the kitchen of their house when the building collapsed. They found a safe haven in a cavity and survived the ordeal on a bottle of water and some tomatoes before they were rescued on the fifth day.

Chitra, the first to be taken out, said from her hospital bed, "We survived by giving solace to each other in the darkness and sharing water and the tomatoes that we had."

Red Cross puts toll at 50,000 Wednesday, January 31, 2001

The Red Cross Wednesday said that the number of deaths in the Gujarat earthquake tragedy could touch 50,000 but was unlikely to be 100,000 as apprehended by Defence Minister George Fernandes.

Bob McKerrow, Head, South Asian Regional Delegation of International Red Cross told the Breakfast News programme of Star News that from various inputs he believed that a figure of 50,000 dead was realistic. But he had difficulty in supporting the figure of 100,000, he added.

Lodai village - illness follows quake Wednesday, January 31, 2001

A doctor in lodai said on Wednesday that survivors made homeless by the disaster were beginning to fall ill.

"I fear this is due to contaminated water," Doctor R.K. Rajgaur told Reuters.

Rajgaur, who has worked in the village of Lodai for about 20 years, said five people had come down with diarrhoea on Tuesday and four others on Wednesday.

"All the four cases today were children below three years," he said.

Rajgaur was running a makeshift medical centre made up of just a few tables with no shelter from the blazing sun.

Alhough Indian authorities have rushed bleaching powder, chlorine tables and specialist medical teams to the western state of Gujarat to fight against any outbreak of disease, full rescue operations have yet to get underway in more remote areas.

Lodai, a town of about 5,000 people in the coastal marshlands of Kutch, is a typical example.

Villagers complained that although they were getting food, they had no water and no shelter.

"We get food but there is no water to drink. We have no shelter over our heads and it is very cold at night," said labourer Haji Abdullah.

All Lodai's houses were flattened by the earthquake, but villagers said they thought only about 30 people had died because the structures were mainly single-storey and most residents were outdoors when it hit.

"At first all of us thought that Pakistan had dropped a bomb so we all ran away and people were yelling 'bomb has fallen, bomb has fallen'," Pancha Bhai Arjan said.

"The village was covered in dust and we could not see anything for half an hour," he said.

At least 20,000 people died in India's worst disaster in half a century and officials say they fear the real death toll could be much higher.

Latest death toll: "??,000" Wednesday, January 31, 2001

One measure of the scale of the devastation wrought by gujarat's devastating earthquake has been the wildly fluctuating death tolls put out by the authorities and the media.

At the top end of the range is the stunning figure of 100,000 dead put out late Monday by Defence Minister George Fernandes, which marked a quantum leap from the previous high-end estimate of 20,000.

Since then, several cabinet colleagues, as well as Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee have indirectly rapped Fernandes on the knuckles and stressed that, with so many bodies still buried, precise estimates were impossible.

In Gujarat itself, the state authorities have stuck by a figure of around 20,000, while adding that the final toll could be substantially higher.

The federal government, meanwhile has declined any speculation and only provides the number of bodies retrieved and identified -- a figure that currently stands at 7,162.

Foreign aid organisations have added their own estimates and comments.

"From various reports, 50,000 seems realistic. 100,000? I would have difficulty supporting that figure at the moment," said Bob McKerrow, regional delegation head of the International Federation of the Red Cross.

The media, which faithfully reported all the initial estimates -- while adding a few of its own -- has since grown more skeptical.

"100,000?," was the half page headline on the front of the Pioneer newspaper on Wednesday, following the Fernandes statement.

The India Express was even circumspect with one of its headlines: "Tremor Terror - ?0,000 dead."

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