IN THE NEWS #466 - India Quake

By Cynthia Kirk

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

Aid workers are trying to get relief supplies to survivors of a powerful earthquake in the western state of Gujarat in India. The earthquake measured seven-point-nine on the Richter Scale. It struck the area one week ago. Indian officials say the number of dead could be more than thirty-five-thousand people. They say less than half that many bodies have been found so far. But they say many bodies are still buried in the wreckage.

Gujarat state was the worst affected area of the country. It is one of India's wealthiest states. Many buildings fell. Some villages were completely destroyed. A few people were rescued after being buried under wreckage for several days. Officials in Gujarat now do not think they will find any more people alive. Some international rescue teams are leaving.

Aid planes are transporting aid to the worst affected cities in Gujarat state, including Bhuj and the business capital, Ahmedabad. Indian soldiers are working around the clock to try to get aid to different areas of Gujarat. Hundreds of volunteers from India and around the world are taking part in aid efforts.

Red Cross officials say aid is beginning to reach villages where people had been without food and water for several days. But thousands of survivors still are without supplies and shelter. Red Cross officials said aid efforts had been delayed because of earthquake damage and a lack of equipment to unload planes.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Gujarat are estimated to have lost their homes. They are living in the open. Nights are cold. Aid workers say shelter is urgently needed for the homeless.

Red Cross officials fear that the large number of dead bodies could pollute water supplies. They say there is a serious risk of the spread of cholera and other diseases.

Experts say unsafe buildings increased the number of deaths from the earthquake. Building engineers in India say they had warned about the problem of unsafe buildings. They say buildings are being put up quickly in an effort to meet growing housing and office needs. They say some builders are more concerned about profits than safety.

Power and communication links have been restored in some of the hardest hit areas in Gujarat. And the government has begun to establish temporary administrative offices, which disappeared after public buildings fell.

In New Delhi, the Indian government announced a special tax on personal and company earnings to help rebuild destroyed areas in Gujarat. Yet Indian officials say it could take months or years to rebuild the state. Total damage from the earthquake has been estimated at about five-and-one-half-thousand-million dollars.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.

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