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Monday, 29 January, 2001, 14:00 GMT
On the streets of Bhuj
Mother and child
Up to 5,000 are thought to have died in Bhuj
By Jill McGivering in Bhuj

The first drive into Bhuj was a sombre experience. On every corner, on every street there were scenes of devastation.

Blank spaces ending in heaps of twisted concrete where there should have been multi-storey buildings.

Buildings torn vertically in two, sliced in half and leaning into their neighbours at dangerously unnatural angles. The quietness was eerie.

Small Indian towns are usually throbbing with noise and colour - here there just were not enough people.

The few we did see seemed dazed - others were clearly in the process of fleeing the town; family groups leaving together carrying bundles of belongings.


When we set out on foot we found evidence everywhere of the scale of the tragedy which has struck this small, ancient settlement.

People clustered round to tell us their stories. "This town is finished" - one man kept saying - he was close to tears.

Several of the men here seemed angry as well as shocked. They accused the town authorities of failing to help them

Another had travelled from Bahrain to see if his family had survived. "This has affected everyone" he said. There isn't a family here that hasn't lost someone.

Behind us black smoke was rising from a row of four large funeral pyres. Young men were constantly wheeling small carts into the yard piled high with fresh pieces of wood.

As we talked to the survivors, one pyre was starting to die down and a new one already being built to take its place. It seemed to be a constant process.

The local people said they had four hundred bodies to cremate here - many of the corpses were visible piled close by, loosely covered with bloodstained cloths.


Several of the men here seemed angry as well as shocked. They accused the town authorities of failing to help them.

Even the wood for the funeral pyres, said one man, had come from charities - the government had given them nothing. They also said security had been impossible to maintain.

Relief aid
International rescue teams have now arrived in Bhuj
One man said the corpses had been looted because there had been no one to watch over them. He mimed the twisting off of a ring from a finger.

Help is now coming to Bhuj. International rescue teams have arrived and are starting to search for signs of life in the collapsed buildings.

Officials say supplies of blankets, tents and food are arriving by air.

With an estimated 95% of the town now uninhabitable, many people are simply leaving, setting out to nearby villages to find shelter with friends and relatives.

For those still here there is little left; no electricity, no running water and no shelter.

One senior police official assured us there was not a scarcity of food and blankets - the only problem he said was that local people tended to hoard these things at a time of crisis and that created an artificial shortages.

Artificially created or not, it does seem as if basic foods supplies and shelter have been wiped out.

Bhuj is now getting international attention - even if it has come a little late.

The next priority is likely to be getting to the more remote villages beyond Bhuj which have also seen tragedy but which are yet to see aid.

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See also:

29 Jan 01 | South Asia
Prosperous Gujarat laid low
28 Jan 01 | South Asia
India seeks $1.5bn loan
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