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The BBC's Emma Howard
"They want to relay any news back to Britain"
 real 56k

Monday, 29 January, 2001, 19:24 GMT
UK quake relatives desperate for news
British relatives
British relatives have waited anxiously for news
British Asians have begun a huge relief effort to aid the victims of the earthquake in the Indian state of Gujarat.

There are an estimated 650,000 people of Gujarati descent in Britain, the largest Asian community in the country. Thousands have relatives in the region.

The horrors of Friday's earthquake, which may have killed 20,000 people, have been made worse by loss of many communication links with the region, causing severe anxiety for British based relatives.

A group of British Indians representing seven temples across the UK flew out from Heathrow Airport to Bombay on Monday morning.

Along with much needed supplies, they have brought satellite phones and faxes to report back on the situation.

Nandas Varsani
Nandas Varsani: "No information"
Nandas Varsani, from the Bolton Hindu Temple, said they have become increasingly desperate for news.

He added: "Since Friday morning I have had nothing but calls at my home and at the temple asking for updates, but we have had no information coming through, we have had no communication.

"We have tried every angle and this is the only option left for us."

They have also brought food, medicines and clothing that they will distribute in 24 villages near the stricken city of Bhuj.

London-based BBC employee Vasant Bhojani, 26, said his family had only managed to contact relatives in a village near Bhuj on Monday evening after a fraught weekend of uncertainty.

"There is no centralised information and many people can't get to the region to look for relatives," he told BBC News Online.

Callers have also besieged the Indian High Commission in London.

The Indian High Commissioner Nareshwar Dayal said the Indian authorities are now doing their best to remedy the communication blackout caused by the earthquake.

Getting better

"They have restored mobile telephone services. There are 2,000 new lines in the area. When relatives get in touch with us in Britain, we relay their requests to the authorities concerned in India."


We have loads of calls with people offering their help and offering clothing as well. A doctor has volunteered to go to India and help

Helpline co-ordinator Suryakanel Patel
Seva International, the biggest Indian charity in the UK, is running one of the largest fundraising appeals.

It has enlisted the help of some of Britain's best known Gujarati figures including Lord Dholaklia, the Liberal Democrat party president, and the Labour peers Lord Bhiku Parekh and Lord Adam Patel along with prominent Indian industrialists to front a campaign which they hope will raise 5m.

Sewa International chairman Shanti Mistry said: "We are all shock and horrified this tragedy that has hit India.

"Many people living in Britain have relatives and friends in the state of Gujarat and are ready to provide aid and donations to victims of the tragedy."

The Hindu temple in Neasden, north west London, launched an urgent appeal on Sunday. It has about 200 volunteers feeding 20,000 people in food kitchens in the disaster zone.

It has set up a credit card hotline on 020 8965 2651 and received dozens of calls when it opened on Monday morning.

Helpline co-ordinator Suryakanel Patel said: "We have loads of calls with people offering their help and offering clothing as well. A doctor has volunteered to go to India immediately."

Map showing epicentre of the quake
The quake hit on Friday

Smaller temples like the Ram Mandir temple in Woolwich and the Greenwich Hindu Temple in Plumsted are having their own collections, as is the Anoobam Mission in west London.

Leicester, home to Britain's largest Gujarati population, some 40,000 strong, has organised several different fundraising events.

One temple is hoping to raise 5,000 for survivors.

Mohinder Farma, the president of the Indian Workers' Association in the city, said: "We will be joining other organisations raising funds for people back home."

The Bradford Hindu Cultural Society has called an emergency meeting at its Lees Road temple on Tuesday.

Society president Dyal Sharma said: "We need to make a united effort and gather all the information we can before we decide what do."

Mohammed Ashfaq, of Muslim Global Relief, said: "Our priority is to get help on the ground as soon as possible to those who need it." The charity can be contacted on 01282 604 055.

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.

Oxfam has also set up a credit card online donation service on its website at oxfam.org.uk.

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See also:

29 Jan 01 | South Asia
Race against time for quake victims
29 Jan 01 | South Asia
Prosperous Gujarat laid low
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