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Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 17:11 GMT
Disease risks
Rescue work
The priorities now lie in protecting the quake survivors
By Clive Myrie in Bhuj

The earthquake that hit the west Indian state of Gujarat has reduced the town of Bhuj to rubble.

Hundreds, maybe thousands of bodies are still trapped in the ruins.

Natural disasters: causes of disease
Population movement
Poor sanitation
Contaminated water
People living in confined spaces
Public health programmes disrupted
Those bodies are now a major health risk, even affecting those still trying to find people alive.

"There's a conflict between search and rescue and the health hazard," said British rescue team leader Mike Thomas.

"The longer that we delay the authorities from removing the dead bodies, the more likely that there will be a spread of disease."

The sewage systems of so many towns are in tatters. Contamination of water supplies is an ever-present danger.

Woman in Bhuj looks for her belongings
Bhuj was at the epicentre of the earthquake
The only local water source in Bhuj is from one lake, and more and more people are using the lake. Many deep bores and underground wells have been destroyed.

"Cholera, gastroenteritis, hepatitis, diarrhoea, dysentery. These will be here if corrective steps are not taken," said Dr Ds Yadav.

Rescue teams are using the latest technology to locate possible survivors. Tiny cameras are lowered into the entrails of tower blocks to try to find anyone still alive.

But finding the dead is becoming as much a priority as finding people alive.

Click here for more general information about the health risks following a natural disaster.

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