India Quake Toll Rises: 20,000 Feared Dead, Widespread Devastation Reported

January 29, 2001

As foreign teams joined local rescue workers in a desperate race to comb the wreckage for any survivors of India’s worst earthquake in 50 years, estimates of the the number of people killed exceeded 20,000.

The devastation is spread over a wide area. Hundreds of villages around the quake’s epicenter in Bhuj, east to Ahmedabad and into Pakistan have been completely destroyed. Damage to roads and rail traffic have made it very difficult for rescuers to reach outlying villages.

Authorities in Bhuj estimate as many as 10,000 may have lost their lives in the destruction. Ahmedabad reported heavy loss of life caused by the collapse of numerous buildings, many of them of recent construction. Overtaxed medical facilities are trying to cope with over 40,00 injured.

Serious damage to infrastructure has paralyzed the local economy and could reduce the total Indian economy by over $1 billion. The government has asked to borrow $1.5 billion from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to provide emergency relief.

“Rebuilding and repairing schools, hospitals and government buildings will be a huge task,” said a BBC report. It’s expected to take many months, if not years before the devastated area will recover.

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