Background: Indian Earthquake
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ALEX THOMSON: Three days out, and the authorities say the emphasis is on coping with the homeless, not hoping for survivors, but people are still being pulled out alive. This is Bachau, a small town near the earthquake’s epicenter. Overnight, Russian rescue teams pulled eight people from the rubble alive — among them, two small children. Daylight shows something of what happened to Bachau. Forty-five seconds last Friday morning obliterated a once-prosperous town.
LEWIS SIDA, Save the Children: It’s quite unbelievable, the devastation. Bachau is a town of 30,000 people, there’s not a house standing. In fact, it’s just rubble, just, just rubble. Lots of confusion there. Bits and pieces of private assistance coming. There’s an army medical tent; they’re overwhelmed. They say they’ve had 15,000 casualties from that town and they’re still digging bodies out.
ALEX THOMSON: Today the commander of the exhausted and overwhelmed army rescue team was close to tears.
COMMANDANT JASHORAJ SINH, Indian Army: 90 percent of the town has been destroyed and about 70 percent casualties. This was a town of about 65,000. You can calculate accordingly the casualties.
ALEX THOMSON: At Bhuj, at the epicenter, three crematoriums are working flat out, round the clock, staffed by volunteers. In Bhuj, there is no running water, no electricity, little safe shelter, and very limited food, and tremors of up to 30 seconds have continued throughout the day. Officially, the death toll is a little over 6,000; unofficially, they talk of anything up to 20,000. If you want to know how serious this is, take the Indian prime minister, Mr. Vajpayee. He visited the disaster zone and said simply foreign countries’ offers of help will be accepted. Across the earthquake zone, there are people calling out desperately for a response from their buried relatives. Here, there was no response. Help is arriving. Besides the Russians, 35 Turkish rescuers, an alpine rescue units from France, 48 Swiss rescue specialists with sniffer dogs and thermal imaging equipment. From Germany, a 27-member team with search cameras, and a 70-strong British team, veterans of the Turkish earthquakes, these, arrived in Bhuj yesterday.
SPOKESMAN: We’ve just arrived. We’ve already met with the superintendent, who’s in charge of the rescue operation. And he’s identified for us their top five priority buildings where they believe there are still up to 200 people that are still trapped.
ALEX THOMSON: Across this region, the Indian army has been deployed more or less from the outset. A naval flotilla of hospital ships is en route from Bombay. On the streets of Calcutta, as across India, they’re collecting donations, and not just of cash. These blood donors were in Jaipur in neighboring Rajasthan. At Bhuj, the military hospital is barely functioning, but the civilian hospital is flattened, as are 95 percent of the town’s buildings. The injured, by the thousands, are going to have to be moved out a long distances to get treatment.