Quake toll 'may be 100,000'

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Tuesday, 30 January, 2001, 03:12 GMT Quake toll 'may be 100,000'

India's defence minister, George Fernandes, has estimated that as many as 100,000 people may have died and 200,000 injured in last Friday's devastating earthquake.

Mr Fernandes told the BBC that his predictions were based on aerial reconnaissance of parts of the worst affected state of Gujarat. So far about 6,200 bodies have been pulled from the rubble.

The authorities are now switching their attention to the tens of thousands of people made homeless as hopes fade of finding any more people buried alive.

The BBC's Jill McGivering says accurately estimating the death toll has been difficult because communications in the region have been so badly disrupted.

Mr Fernandes blamed the high death toll on shoddy workmanship, which he said had caused many buildings simply to collapse and called for better construction standards.

Relief effort

As the relief effort continues, criticism is mounting that authorities have been slow to react and have not the learnt the lessons of previous natural disasters.

India aid effort 5,000 soldiers

40 military aircraft including helicopters and transport planes

Three navy ships

11.5 tonnes of medical supplies to Bhuj

750 doctors and paramedics to Bhuj Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has called for relief work to be speeded up and has announced federal aid worth five billion rupees ($107.6m).

Visiting the devastated city of Bhuj on Monday, Mr Vajpayee renewed an appeal for $1.5 billion in aid from international banks - a fifth of which the World Bank has pledged to release immediately.

He called on Indians to donate to a government fund for the victims. International aid so far includes $5m in emergency supplies from the United States and $12 million in aid from Britain.

A special aid flight from Pakistan is also expected to arrive on Tuesday after earlier confusion about whether or not the Indian Government would accept it.


The earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale struck on Friday morning in the wealthy industrial state of Gujarat, flattening whole villages and toppling high-rise blocks in cities.

As many as 500,000 people are homeless At least four people were found alive on Monday, including an eight-month-old boy in Bhuj, and a seven-month-old girl dug from the rubble of her home in the nearby town of Bhachau.

But increasingly, only dead bodies are being pulled from the rubble emergency workers point out that any more rescues will be nothing short of miraculous.

International charities and aid agencies are now focusing on delivering much-needed basic supplies such as food, clean drinking water and blankets to survivors.

On Monday, the British Government estimated that as many as 500,000 people have been made homeless.

Damage to hospital buildings has also forced doctors to treat many patients in the open air. Medical supplies are also running low in many areas.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), January 29, 2001

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