Was it the earthquake that really killed the people? As the people of Gujarat try to piece their lives together, here is a narration of their first shock
“On the morning of 26th of January we were going for the republic day parade with many other school children when suddenly the earth shook. At that time we were in a narrow lane and before we realised what was happening the buildings on either sides of the lane began to fall. I don’t remember anything beyond that… I regained consciousness in this hospital. They have found the dead bodies of my two sisters…. we are still looking for one of my sisters…”
This is the statement of ten year old Piyush who was a resident of Anjar. Piyush was pulled out of a concrete wreckage. His hand is broken but there is no trace of fear or terror on his face… after all, he has seen the earth in its full fury. The earthquake affected areas of Bhuj, Anjaar and Bachua, all depict a similar picture…. a mass of wreckage… an ocean of rotting bodies and an overwhelming stench of animals.
Anjar is about 50 km away from Bhuj. It has become the central point for relief work only because it has an airport through which the surrounding affected areas could be provided with medicines, tents and food packages. The roads connecting it with Ahemdabad and Gandhidham have also been severely damaged. It took almost 4 days to transport heavy cranes to the affected areas and locally available machines had to be brought in to remove many bodies from underneath the debris. These machines had their limitations- many lives were saved while many others just lay buried for help to come their way. They were wrapped in pieces of cloth and pulled out after a week.
For once, the local administration could not be blamed. Any government can never been prepared in tackling such a severe earthquake. However, the lack of coordination between the government officials became a cause of loss of many lives. The government unable to reach an estimated number of people buried under the rubble even after a week. As a result, the foreign team equipped with sniffer dogs came as a ray of hope for the few still surviving under the debris.
“Wherever we went the local people were frantically hoping to locate their dear ones but we could not find any body in the pile of broken buildings” said a Russian team member. The foreign teams were upset on the inability of government in Gujarat in giving them any information. They had to wait for almost four hours at the Ahemdabad Airport without any guidance. They managed to retrieve people from 70 relatively new buildings that had collapsed in Ahemdabad and Bhuj district on their own initiatives.
Apart from this, the people who had been rendered homeless due to the earthquake were also not provided assistance. There was ample supply of tents, medicines and food items for distribution to the victims, however due to lack of coordination between the various departments they were not distributed to the people.
Rahim Miyan of Bhuj said that the control room had enough tents but they were not bieng distributed because the municipal corporation had not yet decided where the tents had to be pitched. The Richter scale needle definitely moved during the earthquake, however can the tragedy caused by the ‘unmoved’ government be ever measured?
Time will heal the wounds of this tragic incident. One cannot predict the earthquake but one can definitely learn and device new ways from modern technology. Only then can this mass destruction of mankind be put to an end.