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Monday, 5 February, 2001, 08:19 GMT
Quake effort turns to long-term help
Indian soldiers
Soldiers are struggling to recover thousands of bodies
Relief operations after the earthquake in the Indian state of Gujarat are now in full swing, allowing the authorities to turn their attention to long-term help for the survivors.

The Gujarat authorities said on Monday they planned to set up tent cities, complete with medical facilities, shops and markets, for hundreds of thousands of people made homeless.

Gujarat's Home Minister, Haren Pandya, said 70,000 tents had already been distributed but twice that number were needed.

Funeral pyre for quake victims
Funeral pyres are burning round the clock
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says many people who fled the city of Bhuj, in Gujarat, which was hardest hit by the quake, were afraid to return because of the threat of disease.

A BBC correspondent in Bhuj says the challenge is to rebuild civil society almost from scratch.

Economic activity has dried up completely in the area and people are entirely dependent on relief aid.

Indian Defence Minister George Fernandez, who visited the ruins of Bhuj on Monday, said he doubted whether the final death toll would ever be known.

Disease threat

There have been fears of potential outbreaks of diseases like typhoid and cholera.

Local authorities have been conducting an aggressive campaign of spraying dead bodies with chemicals as they are uncovered in an effort to contain possible epidemics.

The myth about dead bodies is so deeply ingrained... but we need to take into account with things which are priorities

WHO spokesman
However, a spokesman for the World Health Organisation, Gregory Hartl, stress that the greatest danger is posed not by corpses but by disruption to clean water supplies.

"Bodies do not cause any sort of disease, if a person did not have any sort of disease when alive," Mr Hartl told the BBC. "When a person dies the virus cannot survive more than a short time afterwards."

Aid agencies say there are no signs of epidemics developing yet.

At least 30,000 people are estimated to have died in the quake, which measured 7.9 on the Richter scale. Another 55,000 have been injured and about half a million made homeless.

Water situation

Supplies of fresh water are reported to be sufficient at the moment, either from existing wells in the area or from supplies that are bussed in by the authorities.

The worst situation is in Bhuj town itself, where many resident have resorted to washing themselves and their belongings in a lake in the town centre where hygiene levels are deteriorating.

The Red Cross is trying to set up a clean water facility at the lakeside and a large water filtration plant with excess capacity at the 350-bed hospital which it is trying to set up in Bhuj.

Large stockpiles of aid material are accumulating throughout the region, because not enough workers are available to distribute it.

The authorities say this situation will be remedied in the next couple of days.

Dangerous work

Efforts to retrieve dead bodies and burnt them on the spot are continuing, but the dangerous nature of the work and the shortage of specialist equipment and resources is hampering progress.

A truck is unloaded from the first US aid plane
A truck is unloaded from the first US aid plane
Sanjay Gupta, a senior government official overseeing relief work in Anjar said less than half of the town's 7.5km of roads and by-lanes had been cleared so far.

Aid workers have added their voices to survivors' criticism that while international aid has been plentiful and quick to arrive, a lack of co-ordination has made it less effective than it could have been.

Much of the relief effort has been co-ordinated by private and religious groups, not by government agencies.

The BBC's Simon Ingram in Gujarat
"Before the survivors can be counted, the job of recovering the dead must take priority"
Gregory Hartl, World Health Organisation
"Dead bodies do not cause disease"
See also:

03 Feb 01 | UK
Quake aid flights leave UK
03 Feb 01 | South Asia
Rescuers prepare to leave quake zone
02 Feb 01 | South Asia
Call breaks India-Pakistan standoff
01 Feb 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Aid operation in Gujarat
01 Feb 01 | South Asia
Indians mobilise for quake victims
31 Jan 01 | South Asia
Minister resigns over quake remarks
30 Jan 01 | Media reports
Press faults quake relief effort
02 Feb 01 | South Asia
Web helps find quake survivors
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