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The BBC's Rebecca Jones
"Religious groups are united in praying for the victims of the earthquake"
 real 56k

Sunday, 28 January, 2001, 07:14 GMT
Indian earthquake appeal launched
The UK's Gujarat community
The UK's Gujarati community are sending clothes to India
The largest Indian charity in the UK has launched an appeal to raise 5m to help victims of the Gujarat earthquake.

Seva International met on Sunday in north London, the home of the biggest Gujarati community in Britain, to discuss how best to plan a relief effort.

Its communications director, Manoj Ladua, told the BBC that the earthquake may have forced 100,000 people from their homes.


I was shocked and saddened to learn of the death, injury and destruction caused by the earthquake

Tony Blair
"The meeting will be to take stock of the situation in India and then chalk out a fund raising plan over the next few weeks," he said.

"We are launching a credit card hotline on Monday and we have also received agreement from many of the banks so people can go in and make a donation over the counter."

He said the money the charity hoped to raise would go primarily towards a rehabilitation programme for people who have been made homeless.

"Already we have figures of up to 100,000 families who have been displaced in the area and that figure is continuing to rise," he said.

The UK-based volunteer rescue team, Rapid UK International Rescue Corps, has arrived in India. It will be helping the authorities search through the rubble.

Specialists

The deputy director of the organisation, John Holland, told the BBC that the team has specialist knowledge and equipment to locate trapped casualties.

"There is always a lot of people on the ground with disasters like this, but what they lack in developing countries is the specialist equipment that we will be bringing to find people," he said.

The team will join members of the UK fire brigade and civil defence personnel who arrived in India on Saturday.

The earthquake struck the Indian state of Gujarat on Friday.

'Ready to help'

Some Indian Government officials are suggesting that there could be more than 15,000 dead.

The number of injured is put at 33,000, while hundreds of thousands are said to be homeless.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has sent a message of sympathy and support to the victims.

In a letter delivered by the British Embassy in India to the country's Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he wrote: "I was shocked and saddened to learn of the death, injury and destruction caused by the earthquake in Gujurat.

"Please pass on my deepest sympathies to all those who have lost loved ones. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

"We stand ready to help in any way we can."

Rescuers' array of technology
'Vibration-sensing' trapped person locators
Thermal-imaging cameras
Video endoscopes
Audio probes

Indian officials say more than 2,000 bodies have already been recovered and thousands more are still thought to be trapped inside collapsed buildings, including some 400 children inside a school building in Bhuj, near the epicentre.

Speaking to BBC News 24, Nareshwar Dayal, Indian High Commissioner in London, insisted Indian relief operations had swung into action quickly.

But he added: "What we greatly appreciate from Britain and other countries is specialist equipment being sent, which includes machines [to check] whether there is still life under the rubble."

The UK Government has pledged 3m to provide emergency assistance. The International Red Cross and the Indian Red Cross have also launched appeals for money.

Members of the public can make credit card donations by calling 08705 125125 or sending a cheque to the India Earthquake Appeal, British Red Cross, Source 13101, FREEPOST, MID21782, Halesowen, B63 3BR.

The Foreign Office has issued emergency numbers for worried relatives: 0207 008 0000 and 020 7839 1010.

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28 Jan 01 | South Asia
Crucial day for quake rescue
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