New Delhi: At least 34 people have been killed in northern and eastern India as a powerful earthquake originating in Nepal damaged houses and buildings and sparked panic among the people. “Of these 34 dead, 23 were killed in Bihar, eight in Uttar Pradesh and three in West Bengal,” Union Home Secretary L C Goyal said at a hurriedly called press conference here. More than 100 people have also been injured in these states.
Goyal said five teams of National Disaster Response Force, comprising 45 personnel each, have been dispatched to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh for conducting rescue and relief operations. “Our focus is on rescue operations. The damage assessment will follow in some time,” he said. The Home Secretary said the NDRF teams are equipped with life-saving kits, breathing equipment, wood and metal cutters and other essential gadgets and are also accompanied by paramedics and sniffer dogs.
Goyal said that the Bihar government had requested for the NDRF teams and one team each has been sent to Darbhanga, Supaul, Motihari and Gopalganj districts of the state. An NDRF team has also been sent to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, he added. “I am in constant touch with the Chief Secretaries of the affected states and assured them all possible help,” he said.
The National Crisis Management Committee, headed by Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, has already held a meeting and reviewed the situation. It will meet again soon to take stock of the situation. NDRF Director General OP Singh said that 10 rescue teams have been flown to Nepal to assist the local authorities there.
Director General of India Meteorological Department, Laxman Singh Rathore, said that 14 aftershocks above the intensity of 5 on the Richter scale were registered in the affected areas. Goyal said an inter-governmental coordination cell has been set up under the Cabinet secretariat, which will work with all the stakeholders engaged in rescue and relief operations in Nepal and India. The Home Secretary said communication networks in the affected states were functioning fine.
The National Disaster Management Authority has set up a control room in the wake of the quake with the telephone numbers — 011-26701728, 011-26701729, Mobile: +91 9868881801.