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CNN Today

More Than 2,000 Confirmed Dead in Indian Earthquake

Aired January 26, 2001 - 4:10 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: India's prime minister calls it a calamity of national magnitude. Nearly 2,000 people are now confirmed dead, thousands more injured and homeless following the strongest earthquake to hit the subcontinent in a half-century. The 7.9 magnitude quake was felt hundreds of miles away in the capital, New Delhi, and in neighboring Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Dozens of aftershocks have been reported.

CNN's Satinder Bindra joins us now via videophone with an update -- Satinder.

SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, night has fallen here, Joie, and lots of fear amongst the population. Many people are sleeping outside because officials have been warning them of the possibility of aftershocks. Officials telling people here through radio and television that if they are in buildings that might have suffered structural damage, that it's probably safer for them to come out.

Meanwhile as all this happens, rescue efforts are continuing on what the Indian prime minister calls a war footing. Here in Ahmedabad where I am, some 400 people have been killed and 50 buildings have been collapsed. Some 5,000 soldiers have now joined the rescue effort. They are working around the clock.

Now, civilians do want to do their utmost to help. They have been asking the army if they will be allowed to help. So far, the army, at least from what I've seen, has been pushing them away. So, civilians are preparing tea, preparing water for the army so they can keep their energy up.

Now, just 300 kilometers west from here, where the center of the earthquake was in a place called Bhuj, we're hearing damage has been very extensive. We are hearing that up to 90 percent of the homes and houses there are damaged. We are also getting reports that casualties there may be high as 1,000.

This is the worst earthquake to hit India in about 50 years. The international community, led by U.S. President George W. Bush, has offered condolences. The U.S. president and, indeed, other international agencies have offered assistance. But so far, no official word from the Indian government if it's willing to accept that assistance -- Joie.

CHEN: Satinder, can you tell us what people need most at this point?

BINDRA: Well, people -- what they need most at this time is probably hope. Many families getting extremely dejected, very tearful as their loved ones are still caught under the rubble. We have reports from one area here that up to as many as 100 schoolchildren could be caught under rubble. We are also hearing reports from elsewhere that many people are trapped.

Now people, because of the fear factor, which I mentioned earlier, are spending the night out in the open. The temperature here is about 55 Fahrenheit. And what they need is blankets. What they need is tents. They need food. They need medicine, and they need doctors as soon as possible -- Joie.

CHEN: Satinder Bindra reporting to us from the region of that earthquake in India.

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