Tremours cause injuries in devastated earthquake zone

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The Independent Online

A series of earthquakes shook buildings in the western Indian state of Gujarat, where a large quake killed at least 17,000 people two weeks ago. At least 25 people were reportedly injured in the aftershocks.

A series of earthquakes shook buildings in the western Indian state of Gujarat, where a large quake killed at least 17,000 people two weeks ago. At least 25 people were reportedly injured in the aftershocks.

Police said the injured included 15 panicked residents who jumped from the windows of their homes in Ahmadabad when the quakes struck late yesterday and early today, according to the Press Trust of India.

The Indian Meteorological Department said a 5.3-magnitude quake shook the Kutch district at 10:25pm yesterday. The epicenter was 12.5 miles northeast of Bhachau, a town of 15,000 that was badly damaged in the January 26 quake, said SN Vhattchara, deputy director general of the department.

"We were preparing to go to bed. Suddenly we felt the ground under us shaking," said CV Patil, a government doctor who has been sheltering with other homeless in tents in Bhachau.

Some alarmed people rushed from their temporary homes, but 15-year-old Suresh Keshunda said he wasn't frightened. "Now we are living in tents. So nothing will happen," he said.

The quake was followed by 10 aftershocks of magnitudes measuring between 3 and 4.

More than 230 aftershocks have rocked the region since the 7.7 magnitude earthquake, India's worst tremor in half a century.

Residents across Gujarat felt the quake last night, and many who feared their buildings would collapse rushed into the street and spent the night outside. They jammed state telephone lines temporarily while trying to call loved ones in the aftermath.

Some 24,000 soldiers have been deployed in Gujarat to search for bodies, clear debris and help hundreds of thousands of injured and homeless people. Many survivors of the quake are still sleeping outside under plastic sheets, awaiting tents and other relief supplies.

The earthquake left no building intact in Bhachau. Today, relief workers cooked food and people waited in long queues to receive their daily meal of rice and vegetables.

On the southern edge of Bhuj, though, Israeli soldiers packed up a 70-bed tent hospital at a school yard where more than 1,500 people had been treated since the quake struck. "Our mission is done," said Jonathan Gutfarb, a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Force.

Among the last patients Israeli doctors saw was 13-month-old Sejal R Rajgor, a baby who for many has become a symbol of the quake since being photographed at the Israeli hospital last week. Sejal had been trapped in quake rubble for eight hours and emerged with a crushed leg that had to be amputated. Her mother, brother and three cousins were killed.

Her father brought her in for a checkup yesterday, Gutfarb said. Doctors said she was making good progress.

The Home Ministry says at least 17,000 people died and unofficial estimates say the toll is likely to reach 30,000, with many victims still buried under the rubble. Bhuj was among the hardest-hit towns, with whole neighborhoods flattened by the tremor.

Some officials in the devastated regions said some towns, as well as the central part of Bhuj that was surrounded by ancient walls, were beyond repair and should be replaced by new towns built in different locations. They said they would consider relocating residents of Anjar, Rapar, Bhachau and Gandhidham.

"We want to start a debate with the people," said Anil Mukim, the district administrator of Bhuj.

Gen NC Vij, a military commander supervising the relief operation, said the task of removing the rubble was "Herculean."

Hundreds of thousands of people who lost their homes in the quake are now receiving aid from a host of government and private agencies, both local and international.

The UN Development Programme said Friday it was providing US$3 million worth of aid, including shelter for 40,000 families in rural areas of Gujarat. Also today, UNICEF launched its first major training session for trauma counsellors.