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Indian Region Devasted by Earthquake Faces Tough Task of Rebuilding

Aired January 31, 2001 - 4:18 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: In India, five survivors, including a 12- year-old girl, were pulled today from the rubble of last week's earthquake. Gujarat state officials say that 12,000 bodies have now been recovered. The death toll, though, is expected to climb to at least 25,000. Relief officials say it is a race against time to recover decaying bodies to prevent the outbreak of disease. Tens of thousands of people were injured when the quake hit on Friday. An estimated 200,000 more are homeless.

The economic impact on this impoverished region is huge. CNN's Nic Robertson on that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the Lukshi Oil Mill Company (ph), the gates are kept locked to keep the looters out. Already plant owner Tejraj Pukhraj Jain (ph) says he's lost $10,000 worth of refined peanut oil to thieves. His bigger concerns, however, are replacing the $8,000 generator that powered the peanut presses, and fixing other equipment and buildings damaged in the quake. The total bill for repairs he estimates at over $100,000.

"The government," he says, "will give us a loan, but we haven't seen it yet."

His co-owner, Jogesh Shah (ph), adds, "If we don't get it, I don't know what we'll do."

The pair have insurance, but don't know if it will ever pay out. They've given their 25 employees what they can to keep them going. Profits were never large, barely $500 a month. Neighboring businesses are similarly hit, like this plant that makes puffed rice cereal. Lost production here means, in turn, lost revenue for farmers unable to sell their rice.

Downtown, small business owners are packing up what they can salvage and preparing to leave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No business, this shop, after repair.

ROBERTSON: Those who can are getting out of town until homes or businesses can be fixed. Everyone here is planning on the government to help to get back on their feet. (on camera): Indian experts put the repair bill for industry alone at $5 billion. And the cost of rebuilding homes, they say, could be two to three times that amount. Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee has warned of a tough budget ahead and hinted there may tax raises to pay for the quake.

(voice-over): It will be a long time before the rebuilding can begin. The Indian army is still busy clearing bodies and debris. The worst-hit buildings will have to be demolished. Before this quake, Bhuj was a popular destination with tourists looking for a picturesque escape.

Retired policeman H.P. Jadeja (ph) shows the 250-year-old shrine he used to visit twice a day. "It used to be beautiful," he says. "Because of the quake, the tourists," he says, "will know the situation is not good and stay away."

He expects things to get better, but like most here, he doesn't know exactly how or when.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Bhuj, India.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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