5 days after quake, victims still wait for relief Wednesday, January 31, 2001
AHMEDABAD: Four days after the devastating quake hit Gujarat, rescue workers are yet to reach several villages in the worst-hit Kutch district, residents say.
"Hundreds of people are still trapped in my village. God only knows how many of them are still alive," said Udesinh of Seekar village, who has come here with his wife for treatment. Seekar lies near Bhachau town, which, along with Rapar, Anjar and Bhuj, are the worst affected areas of Kutch district.
Udesinh is relatively lucky - he has only fractured his hand. His wife, who has suffered head injuries and multiple fractures in the leg, is in a serious condition at the VS Hospital here.
The few volunteers who have reached some of the villages in the area are untrained and do not have proper equipment and are thus handicapped in mounting rescue efforts. Thousands of people still lie buried under the heap of rubble that the buildings in Kutch have been reduced to. And the worst fears of the people that the death toll could cross the 50,000 mark might come true.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who visited Bhuj and several devastated villages, refused to be drawn into numbers Monday, but accepted that the survivors' only expectation of the administration at the moment was that those still under the debris be pulled out as soon as possible.
But with every passing hour, the chances of survival of those under the rubble are getting dimmer.
Meanwhile, quite a few corporate houses have joined the relief effort. The Narmada Fertiliser Corporation has established a communication network through a V-SAT (very small aperture terminal) link to enable people make calls from Kutch.
The state's two cellular service providers, Celforce and AT&T, have been able to activate their network but it still difficult to get thorough due to congestion in the network. Practically, it is still one-way traffic with only the quake victims being able to send messages out.
The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, the Reliance group and pharmaceutical companies like Cadila and Marg have sent in equipment, personnel and medicines worth hundreds of thousands of rupees.
Detergent major Nirma group is setting up temporary residential complexes in which the families of quake victims could live for up to a year until they make alternative arrangements.
Several organisations and youth groups have been collecting money and relief materials like blankets, clothes, medicines, cereals and other eatables to be dispatched to Kutch.
Kutch residents reject 'alien' donations Wednesday, January 31, 2001
While aid is being rushed to Gujarat from all over the world, residents of Kutch district have been turning away food and clothes offered by the government and donors saying what they need most is a roof over their heads, even if temporary.
Meanwhile, a 60-year-old Anjar resident miraculously survived after having been trapped in debris for about 105 hours with minimal harm.
Kutch has been flooded with relief material, mostly food and clothes. However, the locals are not comfortable either eating the food or wearing the clothes.
Volunteers who ventured into Bachchau town said residents asked for nothing more than temporary shelters. Almost the entire town has been flattened by the quake.
Food comprises pre-cooked puris, sabzi, bread and stuffed items, which are alien to the locals. What they want is rice and dal.
That was the request of residents of Choppa Duva village, population 12,000 of which 50 have died.
All the houses in this village have been destroyed. The residents have been pleading for temporary shelters.
Most of the donated clothes comprise jeans, T-shirts, churidar kurtas and the like, which the locals are not comfortable wearing.
The villagers are asking for medicines, especially for children who have been vomiting, suffering from diarrhoea and ENT problems.
They have also been asking for lanterns, candles, kerosene, and diesel to operate their grinding mills. Some of the wheat stocks are safe and residents have been making do with it.
Most of the food from outside is being fed to the cattle.
In Mora Cheri village, population of 3,000 of which 300 died, the demand is for heavy earth moving equipment. Many of the bodies are still trapped inside debris and have begun stinking.
In Anjar, which is mostly a ghost town now, rescue workers managed to save a 60-year-old woman at 1700 hours (IST) on Tuesday about 105 hours after the earthquake struck.
She was administered first aid and was found to be in good health. Sniffer dogs have been put into service in the town to trace survivors, if any.
Most of the buildings have been damaged and unfit for inhabitation. All the residents are sleeping in the open keeping themselves warm with bonfires.
This is the town where about 400 school children were trapped when the earthquake struck. Unconfirmed reports indicate that most of them have since died.
On Monday, a 14-year-old boy was saved after rescue worked amputated his leg. He was later taken to Jamnagar for treatment.
The children were reportedly marching along a road when the quake brought down the buildings on both sides of the road trapping them.
The army's efforts to locate survivors and extricate bodies have been hampered by debris, which has piled on the road and blocked it completely.
Swiss rescue team calls off operation Wednesday, January 31, 2001
AHMEDABAD: With the chances of finding survivors becoming bleak, the Swiss rescue team helping in locating people alive under the debris of collapsed buildings on Tuesday called off its operations in Bhuj, one of the worst-hit areas in Friday's earthquake in Gujarat.
A group of 13 Swiss experts and three sniffer dogs, which was pressed into service on Sunday returned here Tuesday evening as there was not much hope of finding any survivors, a spokesperson of the team said.
She said that with the help of the team, seven people--four in Ahmedabad and three in Bhuj-- were taken out alive from flattened buildings.
"It is a difficult decision. But our experience shows that it is difficult for human beings to survive without water after four days," a mercier said.
"Moreover, longer stay would only raise unnecessary expectations of the people," she said.
Relief trains coming closer to Bhuj: Crisis Management Group Wednesday, January 31, 2001
The Crisis Management Group on Tuesday said relief and rehabilitation efforts in Bhuj had got a boost with trains approaching closer to the devastated town and improvements in power supply and the communication system.
Briefing reporters after Tuesday's meeting of the CMG, Agriculture Secretary Bhaskar Baruah said the Gujarat government had put the death toll at 6,444 dead, on the basis of body count, and the injured at 16,767.
He said from the management point of view, things were under control especially with trains being able to reach Ratnala, 27 kms from Bhuj. From that point, relief material could be transported in trucks up to Bhuj.
''Efforts from now on will be to push things by rail and give relief to other systems'', he said adding that Bhuj was the centre of attention.
Power supply, he said, had reached the outskirts of Bhuj and communication system had improved although line capacity was far below what was required. PCOs had also been set up.
Barua said petrol, diesel and kerosene were now available in adequate quantities, but there could some petrol pumps that were not functioning.
Regarding medical facilities, he said close to 1000 doctors from outside the state were working in the quake affected areas. Medical teams were now fanning out into the hinterland.
Over 92,000 blankets had been sent to the state while 57,000 more were in the pipeline. A total of 8660 tents had been pitched and another 2400 were being moved in.
Several teams from abroad were also out in the field helping over 21,000 troops in the rescue efforts.
Barua said the state government now had very clear priorities as regards the requirements. Tents and shelter material, earth moving equipment and concrete cutters, mobile hospitals with portable x-ray machines, food, water packets, blankets, clothing and medicine, including bleaching powder, was required in the state.
Till now, 9522 operations had been carried out in Bhuj alone and over 340 seriously injured had been flown out of the state for treatment. The navy's hospital ships in Kandla had also begun providing medical treatment.
The railways had started special trains to evacuate people from Ahmedabad and Gandhidham. Five special trains were run from Howrah, Delhi, Puri, Bangalore and Madras.
Bulldozers from Bhilai were being transported by the railways and two rakes of GI sheets were also diverted to Gujarat. Two labour specials were rushed from Bombay to accelerate track restoration work. 'Water specials' were also being run from Ahmedabad and Sabarmati to Gandhidham.
Medical relief trains with team of doctors and medical equipment have also been sent to the affected areas.
More Pictures of the deadly earthquake disaster. Tuesday, January 30, 2001
Pictures of the tragedy - Page No 5
Rapid Action Force men clear debris under which
residents are feared to be trapped in Ahmedabad on 27 January 2001.
Bodies arrive at a civil hospital in Ahmedabad on
27 January 2001.
Relatives wait at a hospital for bodies of their
dear ones in Ahmedabad on 27 January 2001.
Workers take a break as they wait for a crane to
arrive to help move large slabs of concrete in Ahmedabad, 27 January 2001.
Survivors left homeless by the massive 6.9 Richter
scale quake wait for food on 27 January 2001, in Ahmedabad.
The bodies of earthquake victims arrive at a civil
hospital in Ahmedabad, 27 January 2001.
An earthquake victim whose arm was amputated being
attended to at a civil hospital in Ahmedabad, 27 January 2001.