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India Earthquake: Joy Amid Hardship as More Survivors Are Found

Aired January 30, 2001 - 2:00 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Our top story: indescribable joy amid the immense heartbreak. Fear and chaos: That is what we're finding in Western India, nearly five days after an earthquake, the most powerful in half-a-century. Village after village lies in ruins. The official estimate of the number killed: 23,000. But India's defense minister says he fears the toll could be four times higher.

Just as hope fades, though, more survivors are pulled from the rubble: just hours ago, a mother, father and baby daughter. They were in their kitchen when the quake hit, surviving only because the crumpled pillars formed a little space around them and there was a bottle of water and fried tomatoes within reach. Late yesterday, more cheers, as this little boy was found alive, sheltered in his dead mother's lap.

More amazing stories of survival now from ITN's John Irvine.


JOHN IRVINE, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): At last help has arrived in Verchal (ph). This is an Indian army field hospital. There are not enough beds to go around. But they have got medical supplies. And they are providing care for people who, at one stage, thought assistance would never arrive. This, however, is one thing the doctors did not expect to see: delivered by emergency cesarian section last night, a baby boy. His mother had suffered abdominal injuries. But both she and the baby have a good chance. The newborn has helped to lift spirits here a little.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely, sure. It has. You can see people smiling. You can see the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) be happy. Everybody is happy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... saved every life which comes right now. If you can do something for that, I think it's something very rewarding.

IRVINE: In the town center, they are using whatever wood they can find to build more funeral pars. Almost every collapsed billing is a tomb. Dr. Escakha (ph) is a local G.P. He knows Verchal and its people well. IRVINE (on camera): Can I ask you how it makes you feel when you see what has happened here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel that everything has gone. The town which I was loving has gone. Now I have to go somewhere else.

IRVINE (voice-over): Today, a Russian team freed a 70-year-old woman, one of very few people to escape the rubble of Verchal. This afternoon, with whatever they could salvage, people were leaving the town. It no longer has anything to offer them.

(on camera): These people are preparing for yet another funeral in the midst of the ruins of their town. And many more will follow this one. All the survivors are, of course, grateful to be alive. But they have lost most of the things they associated with living.

John Irvine, ITN, Verchal, Western India.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now by phone is Nancy Retherford with the American Red Cross. She arrived in hard-hit Bhuj on Saturday, where aftershocks are still being felt.

Nancy, can you describe to us personally what you have been doing since you arrived?

NANCY RETHERFORD, AMERICAN RED CROSS: We've been helping the Indian Red Cross assess the needs of the people and try to meet some of the emergency needs that exist here. We spend the day today in some of the villages distributing wool blankets and plastic sheeting so that they can use those as shelter.

The people are living outside now, for fear of aftershocks. And, of course, many, many of them are homeless and have no choice but to be outside. So the comfort that we're able to provide is welcomed.

PHILLIPS: We have heard that warehouses have been looted, also that aid is not getting to the people. There's a lot of disorder going on. What are you doing to try to prevent that and help things to be more organized?

RETHERFORD: Well, today seemed to be a day where the relief efforts began to be little more coordinated. A lot of -- a lot of support, a lot of help is beginning to come into the city. And that seems to be boosting morale as well. Just a lot of the different agencies are coming together and choosing what their pieces of the recovery puzzle is going to be. And I think that is going make a difference.

PHILLIPS: What do you think the biggest need is right now?

RETHERFORD: We have talked with a lot of the families and asked them just that question. And for a lot of them, the big concern is what they are going to do now as far as housing. So our ability to provide them with a little bit of temporary housing is going to help them. And then they're also concerned about letting their family members know that they're OK or that they may have lost a member of the family.

So we are looking at ways we might be able to communicate that as well -- and, then, of course the medical piece of the puzzle. As we get medical supplies in and mobile hospitals, that is going to help as well.

PHILLIPS: You mentioned a lot people are afraid to go back into buildings, into their homes. Is there anything taking place to check the security of the structures of these buildings and homes now?

RETHERFORD: There are inspectors going into buildings. But there are so many buildings that are damaged. We are talking, in Bhuj, there's about 90 percent of Bhuj has been destroyed. So there's so many different places it can be, it's just going to take a long, long time to get that done.

PHILLIPS: What's the majority of injuries right now, Nancy?

RETHERFORD: Well, initially, there were lots and lots of fractures from the rubble falling on people, and, really, just anything you can imagine. The worst of the injuries in the area where the hospitals were destroyed have been airlifted into other cities if possible. But the capability to do that was very limited as well.

So it's nice that we'll be able -- we're able to finally have a mobile hospital come in and help the people right here in Bhuj.

PHILLIPS: Nancy Retherford, with the American Red Cross, your efforts are appreciated. And thanks for being with us.

For more on how you can help the victims of this disaster, just go to our Web site at, AOL keyword: CNN. Click onto our stories about the Indian relief efforts.



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