Ignoring weatherman's advice not to visit Gujarat because of strong after-shocks, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Monday visited some of the quake-ravaged areas to empathise with the people in the hour of crisis.
Accompanied by a high-level ministerial delegation including Home Minister L K Advani, the Prime Minister made an aerial survey of some of the worst affected areas in Bhuj, Bachau, Anjar and Gandhidham and reviewed with the officials here the relief and rescue operations code named "Operation Sahayata-Gujarat". Vajpayee was also accompanied by Health Minister C P Thakur, Railway Minister Mamata Banarjee, senior BJP leader Saheb Singh Verma, Army Chief S Padmanabhan and BSF Director General Jagat.
On Sunday night, a series of tremors with mild intensity hit Bhuj, two days after the earthquake that registered 7.9 on the Richter scale. The tremors measuring 3.3 and 4.4 on the Richter scale were experienced in Bhuj and surrounding areas between 8.10 pm and 10.55 pm, director of Met department in Ahmedabad R.K. Kankane told PTI. He said the epicentre of the tremors was located at a place 40 km north northeast of Bhuj.
The Rann of Kutch was rocked by tremors early Sunday morning too.
The toll has already crossed 20,000, with more than 50,000 injured and many more either trapped beneath debris or rendered homeless. People with serious injuries are being taken to hospitals in Indore, Rajkot and Pune.
Army has engaged three columns of Bombay Safire, authorities said, adding another battalion of infantry will be joining soon. Foreign relief teams have started operations. A German team of 27 persons and six sniffer dogs and armed with modern gadgets like life-sensors, electric hammer and stone saw is already engaged in relief work on a war footing. The UN, ICRC and Swiss teams are arriving on Monday.
Meanwhile, Deputy Collector of Gandhidham S.K. Rathore has said there are reports of bursting of a gas pipeline in Kandla. The port has suspended all operations.
Kandla is one of the areas affected by the quake in the Kutch region, which bore the brunt of the calamity on Friday.
Yesterday, the Meteorological Department had advised the Prime Minister not to visit Gujarat in the next 48 hours in view of the possibility of continuing strong after-shocks.
Hailing the visit, Gujarat Chief Minister Keshu Bhai Patel said that the Prime Minister's visit would restore the faith of the people in the administration.