A community where everyone knows a victim of the disaster

The Swaminarayan temple in Willesden resembled a freight depot more than a place of worship yesterday as tons of aid were dispatched to the Indian earthquake zone amid a tide of grief and anger from relatives in north London.

The Swaminarayan temple in Willesden resembled a freight depot more than a place of worship yesterday as tons of aid were dispatched to the Indian earthquake zone amid a tide of grief and anger from relatives in north London.

Bundles of blankets neatly wrapped in bedsheets and boxes of medicines were being loaded on to containers bound for the devastated town of Bhuj and the surrounding area. Britain's main Gujarati community was struggling to come to terms with the tragedy, which has touched almost every individual.

Such is the closeness between Willesden and adjoining Wembley and the Bhuj region that in each shop and business on Ealing Road at the core of the London community there was a tale of human suffering.

Haresh Hirani, an 18-year-old healthcare student, said: "We have spent much of the last five days on the phone, trying to get through, trying to get news. My family lives in a village near Bhuj. We think they lived but for many other families around here it is time to deal with death and more death in the villages and towns that they know, where many of them grew up."

At the brightly painted Willesden temple, itself under the spiritual control of one of Bhuj's main temples, the effort was towards helping those who had emerged alive.

More than 60 tons of clothing and blankets has been piled from floor to ceiling in the underground car park. Yesterday, a small army of volunteers were helping to package and load the aid on to lorries.

Urgent material, including donated medicines and blankets for the hundreds of thousands sleeping outside, will be sent on flights provided by Air India, British Airways and Lufthansa. The remainder will be sent by sea.

Money is also pouring in to the proliferation of emergency funds. One Wembley community organisation, the Shree Kutch Leva Patel, which is drawn from 24 villages around Bhuj, has raised £200,000 since the weekend.

But as the aid poured in, amid criticism from some that thousands of jumpers will do nothing to rebuild shattered homes, the struggle for any nugget of information continued. Community groups have harnessed modern technology - from mobile phone text messages to internet bulletin boards - to spread what little information has emerged. Shopkeepers have reported a five-fold increase in the sale of phone cards for cheap international calls.

The earthquake struck at a time when thousands of British-Indians were in the region. At least 5,000 UK residents or UK citizens are feared missing, injured or dead.

Kanji Hirani, 37, a City computer manager whose parents Parabat and Ratanbai, both 64, had returned to their native village, Mirzapur near Bhuj, said: "Communications have been non-existent. I finally found out my parents were alive on Sunday night. My aunt was killed, buried in the rubble that was her house. Her sister lives opposite and yet she emerged unscathed."

Underlying the communal effort, however, was a sense that the British Government, which has pledged £10m towards helping Gujarat recover, is not doing enough.

Jagdish Patel, the chairman of the Brent Indian Association, a community body based on Ealing Road, said: "Millions of Indians have come to this country, raised their families and paid their taxes. There is anger that the Government here isn't giving more financial aid."

The suspicion that the reaction of the British authorities has been, if not institutionally racist then certainly lethargic, was yesterday widely shared among north-west London's Gujaratis.

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