Aid rallied for quake survivors as attention turns to their housing and feeding

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The Independent Online

Bedraggled survivors of the powerful earthquake that flattened cities in western India waited for food and tents today as rescue workers searched frantically for signs of life under mountains of jagged concrete. Officials said 2,403 bodies had been recovered and the death toll was likely to exceed 7,400.

Bedraggled survivors of the powerful earthquake that flattened cities in western India waited for food and tents today as rescue workers searched frantically for signs of life under mountains of jagged concrete. Officials said 2,403 bodies had been recovered and the death toll was likely to exceed 7,400.

Across the world, relief efforts are being mobilised. Teams from the UK, the US and Switzerland are among those planning to fly out.

Specialist British rescue teams are on stand-by to join the massive search for survivors.

A spokeswoman from the British Government's Department for International Development said today that a 69-strong search and rescue team was still on standby pending clearance from the Indian authorities.

The International Rescue Corps consists of the UK Fire Service and Pathfinder - who are made-up of Rapid UK and civil defence personnel.

The rescuers will take heat-seeking equipment to detect survivors who have been buried alive in rubble as tall blocks of flats collapsed around them.

It is planned the overseas aid will focus rescue efforts and bring co-ordinated help to the emotionally and physically wrecked communities.

Last night a Government assessment team left England ahead of the main body of rescuers to check the situation on the ground.

The British Government has pledged £3 million to help the victims of the devastating earthquake, which includes £250,000 to the Red Cross.

Switzerland sent a 48-man rescue team, search dogs and aid supplies today to help in the hunt for survivors of the earthquake.

Authorities said the Swiss Disaster Corps rescue team included army experts and nine dog handlers with their animals. The Swiss are renowned for their expertise in the aftermath of earthquakes and avalanches.

They took with them 10 tons of urgently need relief supplies from the Swiss Red Cross.

An advance party of four specialists left Switzerland for India on Friday. The Swiss waited for an official request from the Indian government before sending the larger party.

The 7.9 magnitude earthquake - the strongest to hit the subcontinent in 50 years - was centered in the western Indian state of Gujarat, where more than 100 multistory buildings and thousands of houses collapsed. Worst hit was the town of Bhuj, where 150,000 people live just 15 miles from the epicenter.

More than half the 2,403 confirmed dead were in Bhuj, while 10,000 others were believed to be buried under debris there, a high-ranking state official said. At least 5,000 of those were believed dead, he said on condition of anonymity.

Survivors were in desperate need of all manner of supplies, from bread to water to gasoline, said the Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya. "Immediately we need 25,000 to 30,000 tents to set up camps for the homeless," he said.

"The earthquake is a calamity of national magnitude," Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said. "We have decided to meet the emergency on a war footing. This is the time for people to rally around."

Vajpayee has made no appeal for international aid.

U.S. President George W. Bush, the United Nations and Pakistan's army ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf sent condolences. Bush said the United States was willing to provide assistance if needed, and the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance announced that it will send a five-member earthquake assessment team to India tomorrow.

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