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January 29, 2001 - January 29, 2001

PM numbed by Bhuj's swathe of destruction Monday, January 29, 2001

Prime Minister A B Vajpayee, accompanied by senior Cabinet ministers and top civil officials, conducted an aerial survey of Bhuj and Kutch region Monday.

During his aerial survey, a grim-looking prime minister on board the military MI-8 helicopter said, ''The death toll is increasing.''

Anjar wore a devastated look with houses within a radius of five km of the township completely damaged.

After the 75-minute aerial survey, the prime minister embarked on a 55-km road journey from Kandla to Anjar where debris from collapsed buildings lay on both sides of the road.

Nearly 100,000 people were feared to be still trapped in the debris at Bhuj, Anjar, Rapar, Bachchau (all in Kutch district), Ahmedabad, Surendranagar, Morbi and other places.

With a clear picture on the death toll still to emerge, nearly 7,000 bodies have been extricated from the rubble so far. However, the worst-hit areas like Bhachchau, Anjar and Rapar were yet to begin in right earnest, the toll could go up to 30,000, those involved in the operations apprehend.

Adding to the difficulties in the death toll estimates was the fact that people were taking away the bodies for funeral rites by themselves, surpassing the official channels.

Monday's tremors, measuring between 3.5 and 4.6 on the Richter Scale, shook the Bhuj area and the last one was recorded a little after 0800 hours, the Indian Meteorological Department said in New Delhi.

The IMD said since the major earthquake on January 26, it has recorded 88 moderate aftershocks in the area.

Meanwhile, the Army, with its massive 'Operation Sahayata' for relief and rescue, the Air Force, the Navy and various private, voluntary, national and international organisations were continuing the work in the quake-hit areas. At Kandla port, two navy ships have been converted into hospitals.

Nearly 12,000 injured were being treated in various private or government hospitals, dispensaries and even make shift arrangements like tents, an official said.

In Kutch district, thousands of casual workers from Rajasthan, Orissa and other states employed in salt farms died in the quake. The authorities have begun to bury the unclaimed bodies.

Although authorities in Bhuj had stated that the death toll in Bhuj alone could be nearly 30,000, state government officials were cautious. They said the Latur quake toll, earlier stated to be around 40,000 was later scaled down to about 12,000.

Sabarmati bypoll cancelled Monday, January 29, 2001

The Election Commission on Monday cancelled the February 19 assembly by-election in the Sabarmati constituency of Gujarat in view of the grave situation in the state following the devastating earthquake.

Senior Election Commission officials said the decision was taken because of the state administration's preoccupation with the relief and rescue operations in the quake-hit areas.

The election process had already been set in motion in Sabarmati and January 31 was the last date for filing of nominations.

The commission had, on January 19, announced by-elections in 11 constituencies spread over eight states on February 18. These are Siwalkhas (SC), Sarsawa and Bhartana in Uttar Pradesh, Giddalur and Badvel in Andhra Pradesh, Asthawan in Bihar, Marwahi (ST) in Chhatisgarh, Sabarmati in Gujarat, Ramgarh in Jharkhand, Hindoli in Rajasthan and Kadamtala in Tripura.

Gujarat will never be the same again Monday, January 29, 2001

This article is by Achyut Yagnik
The earthquake of Republic Day and the following series of tremors in Gujarat are a shattering experience in many ways. Fear and trembling, death and destruction. But above all loss of self-confidence leading to conflict within - heart and head pulling in opposite directions.

Hope and despair come intermittently. Maybe another tremor would not come, even if it comes, the intensity would not be the same and damage and destruction would not be of the same magnitude. For those who are less fortunate, who have lost near and dear ones, enough is enough. For them, it is the present and no question of hope against hope now.

In Ahmedabad, the two emotions of hope and despair, of knowing and the fear of the unknown are both intensified and soothed by the television and the radio. The rumour mill is working overtime. "More tremors at 10 tonight, my neighbour's aunt's brother said someone saw it on BBC" and everyone was out on the streets at 10 p.m. Then everyone would turn "scientific" and say,"Such things cannot be predicted or else would they not have told us before the 26th?"

Gujarat will not be the same again. Cities in Kutch - Bhuj, Anjar and Rapar -and the surrounding villages are not recognisable. The same Anjar became a ghost city as a result of the 1819 earthquake which was the last big earthquake before this one. The western-most city of Kutch, Lakhpat, which was once a great harbour, was destroyed in that earthquake, never rehabited and stands as a testimony to that quake.

Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat, has not met the same fate. The walled city of Ahmedabad is virtually untouched. Death and destruction visited "new" Ahmedabad - both the industrial area evolved during the latter half of the 19th century and the posh areas on the western bank of the Sabarmati developed during the 20th century.

Neglect, negligence and an over-confidence coming from the notion that we were on no earthquake fault line left Ahmedabad ill-prepared. In the last 25 years, the upwardly mobile Ahmedabadis reached skywards, preferring flats and high-rise apartments over the old-fashioned tenements and bungalows. Now everyone is having second thoughts.

Writing is not easy at this moment. The memory of those two minutes and the fear of the unknown is so overwhelming that existential angst takes over the heart and head.

Achyut Yagnik is an Ahmedabad-based writer and social activist.

Hope of finding victims fading. Monday, January 29, 2001

Hope of finding victims inside the debris is fading. Its almost 82 hours since the earthquake striked gujarat. The rescue workers are working round the clock to find anybody alive.

Earthquake survivors numb, fears of looting Monday, January 29, 2001

BHUJ - Survivors of India's worst earthquake wavered on Monday between fear and numb resignation as the full impact of the disaster that has killed up to 20,000 people unfolded.

In Bhuj, which bore the brunt of the quake, thousands of people woke from their third night in the open, still haunted by the fear of aftershocks.

Most had spent the night around bonfires, some with white bundles next to them containing bodies of relatives and friends.

In quake-flattened villages outside Bhuj, relief teams had still not reached survivors desperate for assistance.

"We've got no food, no water," truck driver Yadav Raja Bhai said in a village 30 km (20 miles) from Bhuj. "We've had no government help here."

Rescuers worked round the clock to locate trapped survivors and clear away bodies before disease set in. Police expressed fears of looting with many homes empty.

In Bhuj itself and remote villages surrounding it, trucks brought in firewood for cremations.

The Indian goverment has launched the country's biggest disaster relief operation but remote areas had to fend for themselves.

In places where the relief supplies flowed in, hundreds of people queued before giant cauldrons from which aid workers served rice and a lentil curry.

This site is dedicated to our friend Younus M, who passed away on 28th Sept 00, and left on us an indelible memories !
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