New Delhi, India (BBN)– Although Nepal took the brunt of the high intensity earthquake on Saturday with a death toll of more than 1500 people, the casualty figure in India rose to 38 with relief teams toiling to rescue people buried under the debris in the affected eastern and northern states.
Such was the intensity of the quake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale that tremors were felt as far as Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. With its epicentre in Nepal, the quake triggered an avalanche near Mount Everest killing 18 foreign mountaineers, reports the Hindu.
As per the latest information (at 6 pm), 34 deaths have been confirmed so far with 23 deaths in Bihar, eight in Uttar Pradesh, and three in West Bengal,” Union Home Secretary L.C. Goyal said at a press conference. Later, the death toll was officially revised to 38 with two more deaths each in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
As soon as the first reports came in, the Centre responded immediately with Prime Minister Narendra Modi directing dispatch of relief and rescue teams to the earthquake affected areas. He spoke to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
Even as Mr Modi ordered speedy assistance to the quake-hit states, he also spoke to the President of Nepal offering all help to the neighbouring country. The Indian Air Force was pressed into service to take medical and food relief to Nepal. The IAF’s C-130J Super Hercules landed at Kathmandu carrying 39 NDRF personnel and 3.5 tonnes of relief material.
Later, the Prime Minister took fresh stock of the situation at a high-level meeting attended by Union Ministers Arun Jaitley and Rajnath Singh, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Principal Secretary Nripendra Misra and senior officials of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).
Five teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were rushed to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh and one each to Darbhanga, Supaul, Motihari and Gopalganj in Bihar. The 45-member teams, including doctors and para-medics, carried live detector machines and cutters that can slice into steel, concrete and wood to rescue people under the rubble, as well as sniffer dogs.
Even as Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who was in Delhi for a meeting, returned immediately to Patna, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she was closely monitoring the situation, while Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice-President Rahul Gandhi expressed “concern’’ for the victims and “prayed’’ for succour to the affected.
An inter-governmental coordination cell was set up in the cabinet secretariat to extend relief measures for Indian states as well as Nepal. Control rooms with 24×7 access were set up in the Ministry of Home Affairs and the NDMA.
Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, who heads the Crisis Management Committee, held frequent meetings through the day, and was in constant touch with chief secretaries of affected states through video conferences.