The devastating magnitude of the country's worst earthquake that hit Gujarat on Republic Day unfolded today with death figures crossing 11,000 and several thousands more feared trapped under the rubble of flattened homes that have left lakhs of people homeless in Bhuj and Ahmedabad, the most severely affected areas.
The death toll soared throughout the day with Gujarat home minister Haren Pandya telling reporters that it could be as high as 10,000 and chief minister Keshubhai Patel, who made an aerial survey of Bhuj area, saying it may run into thousands in Kutch district alone. "The toll is going up everywhere," Pandya said.
Patel said at least half of the 1,50,000 people of Bhuj town were still feared trapped under the debris. He described the town as a "graveyard."
During the survey, Patel said, in Bhuj the old town areas have caved in, while in Anjar 25,000 strong population was covered under the debris and the quake has damaged 90 per cent of the houses.
In Bhachau, a 10,000 population with houses had sunk into earth whereas area with 15,000 population in Rapar has also caved in, leading to a mound of debris, Patel said. Four electricty sub-stations have also been swallowed up by the earth, the chief minister said.
To a question, Patel said there was a possibility of the death of 2000 to 3000 in Bhuj alone.
Patel said the civil hospital of Bhuj had collapsed, trapping patients, nurses and doctors there, which has affected the medical services to the quake-hit people of Bhuj. The doctors and army had been engaged in undertaking operations in open areas by erecting temporary tents and installing tables for treatment and operation of the patients.
Describing Bhuj town as a "graveyard" after the collapse of hundreds of houses there, he said because of this a large number of people were under debris and it was hampering the rescue operations.
At least 75,000 population in the town was trapped under the rubble of the collapsed houses which in turn have blocked the passage to the old localities, Patel said.
A large number of people have been injured and they were being treated at the military hospitals where tents have been erected at four places.
The chief minister said it had been decided to lift the seriously injured to the hospitals in Rajkot and Jamnagar by a special aircraft for treatment.
He said 40 gas-cutters have been rushed to Bhuj and 20 generator sets to Kutch district.
Two battalions of army (2,000 personnel) have been engaged in rescue and relief operations, patel added.
Rescue and relief operations were on with the military and paramilitary forces joining the civil authorities in the monumental effort. But lack of heavy duty equipment to cut through concrete and steel rubble and supplies hampered the operations.
In Bhuj, about 400 children going in a procession in a narrow lane in Anjar town to take part in Republic Day celebrations were crushed under the collapsing houses on both sides. Along with the children, 50 teachers were also feared trapped.
In Ahmedabad, where the toll is reported around 600, at least 40 children have been trapped in the school. Already, 18 bodies have been retrieved.
Overall in the state, about 40,000 people have been estimated to be injured in the earthquake.
Meanwhile, lucky survivors in Bhuj and surrounding areas are living in the open. With the major hospitals in Bhuj town collapsing taking under its rubble 150 patients and 15 employees including doctors, open air medical camps have sprung up to provide medical aid to injured.
In the other severely affected areas of Kutch, Bachao and Rapar, people in thousands are feared trapped.