Archive for Thursday, February 1, 2001

India quake survivors rescued

February 1, 2001

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— Rescue workers pulled out more survivors Wednesday just as bulldozers began breaking down the walls of wrecked buildings raising fears that people buried alive by a devastating earthquake could be killed by machines and explosives. The confirmed death count reached 12,000.

State officials said they think 13,000 additional dead are buried in the rubble. Much of the relief effort now has turned to caring for the living, with volunteers setting up a huge Red Cross field hospital. At least 29,000 people were injured in the 7.9-magnitude quake that hit the western state of Gujarat on Friday.

Heavy construction equipment and explosives experts have been brought in to clear debris as rescuers give up hope of finding more survivors. Many experts say few people could survive more than 100 hours buried in the rubble a mark that was crossed Tuesday afternoon.

Still, rescuers working in the rubble, dust and the stench of decaying flesh found a few survivors Wednesday.

Just as bulldozers smashed into the wall of a damaged three-story apartment building in Bhachau, Russian rescuers heard a woman screaming. The 71-member Russian team stopped the bulldozers and began searching, and saw her hand grabbing at them from under a flattened concrete wall.

One Russian rescuer held the woman's hand until the masonry was moved, then pulled Kuntal Thakkar, 22, to safety. She was rushed to a hospital. Her brother-in-law, Anil Thakkar, then crawled into the hole in the rubble. He emerged, saying Kuntal's husband had replied from inside the ruins, "I can see the light. I'm OK."

"He's telling me he wants water, that he's safe, only his left hand is blocked so he can't come out," Thakkar said while the Russians worked to free his brother.

"For six days, they talked to each other," he said of the couple after the husband was pulled out, put on a stretcher and announced he was "feeling fine."

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