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"Triumphant,…Shrieking…. Rumbling Earth": Note from a Naturalist
Bangalore - Earthquake Update Appeal No. 4  (5th Feb 2001)
From: "Arun Agnihotri"
To: Natural History of South Asia - General discussion and research
Subject: Re:Rebuilding Gujarat

I left for Kachchh in late November and was looking forward to sending in my observations by mid-February.

However, it took just 1 minute 15 seconds, on the morning of January 26th for me to realize that the said 'observations' were now practically meaningless.

My re-collections of earthquakes were adventurously-romantic...........seen through the eyes of a young lad. That was Delhi in the early sixties, and being dragged out of the house; dumped on the road; snuggled in a huge sleeping-bag (shared by the dogs with attempts to kick the sister out); secretly waiting for some silly building to collapse..........was what earthquakes were made of!

How we learn!!

38 years later and 30 kms from the epicentre, there were no romantic visions. Hanging-on to the tent with my ears bursting with the triumphant shrieking and rumbling being emitted from the earth, I passively watched the ground splitting around me (wondering which side would I be able to leap).

Still on the roller-coaster ride, I saw the hills crack open with a roar with huge boulders crumbling. At one place, the earth spat out a kilometre high column of dust. The trees, it seemed, were paying obeisance to nature and kept bending to kiss the ground with the branches! Somewhere in the midst of all this my mind was also registering the terrified screams of our kitchen staff.

And then it was over.

The silence was unreal. Lying on the ground with my face near a surface-crack, I noticed in a very detached manner that there were mini puffs of dust rhythmically bathing my arm. The ears detected the growling from the earth that warned of after-shocks. In the distance, there were 'explosive' sounds. The ground was still shifting.Tried to get up but there was no strength left in the body. Crawled towards clearer area and turned my face towards Bhuj. Our camp being on an elevation, always gave us a wonderful view of Bhuj city and the old fort with the camel-humped dungars rolling down the horizon. To my horror, I could see nothing except a thick cloud of dust! Still trying to comprehend the situation the sensibilities were now shattered with an eerie sound of continuous wailing that drifted from Bhuj.

The shock-waves continued.

Kachchh has been razed to the ground. It took the Gujarat govt. 6 days to initiate relief measures for Kachchh. Thousands of people lay trapped under the debris crying-out for help and most of us were totally incapable of extending any help except hold a stranger's hand till the breathing stopped.

No water. No food. No medicine. No shelter. No relief measures.

When relief planes did reach Bhuj, those carrying ministers were allowed to land first. They all stepped out with their XYZ security, talked about crisis-management and earthquake-proof houses to people who wanted equipment to clear the debris. They talked about task-forces to people who were crying out for medical care. They talked about the resilient temperament of the Gujarati and their tenacity to face any calamity (statistics of past calamities being read out), to people who wanted food, water and blankets to survive the day and the cold nights.

Then they all went back to Gandhinagar to wield the axe. The heads are already rolling. The collector of Kachchh, Mr. Kamal Dayani has been moved out.

(SNIP Non contextual)

Arun Agnihotri mailto:tufnuttocrk@satyam.net.in

Back to: Bangalore - Earthquake Update Appeal No. 4