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Death toll in India crosses 50, likely to rise

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Bharti Jain,TNN | Apr 26, 2015, 06.03 AM IST

NEW DELHI: As many as 51 people across Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal were killed and nearly 237 injured by the powerful tremors that rocked northern India on Saturday morning. Bihar witnessed the highest deaths at 38, while UP and West Bengal reported 11 and two deaths respectively.

The casualties are expected to rise further as the real extent of destruction becomes clear.

Union home minister Rajnath Singh said the damage to life and property was still being assessed. Briefing reporters later, Union home secretary L C Goyal said: "Our focus now is rescue operations. The damage assessment will follow in some time".

As of now, deaths have been reported in East Champaran, Motihari, Sitamarhi, Madhubani, Supaul, West Champaran and Chhapra in Bihar; Barabanki, Gorakhpur, Kanpur Dehat, Sant Kabir Nagar and Shravasti in UP; and Siliguri in West Bengal.

Reports of damage in northern Bihar started coming in soon after the quake, leading the Centre to rush NDRF personnel from their Patna base to the affected districts. Five teams, each comprising 45 personnel, were dispatched to Bihar and UP. A team each is now carrying out rescue and relief operations at Darbhanga, Supaul, Motihari and Gopalganj in Bihar and Gorakhpur in UP.

In addition, 10 teams of NDRF, comprising 450 trained personnel, have been deployed for rescue and relief in Nepal. While 7 teams have already landed in Nepal, three more teams will be flown by Sunday morning.

NDRF chief O P Singh said this is the force's first big rescue operation on foreign land, though it had earlier assisted the Japanese authorities in rescue operations following the 2011 tsunami. "The Japan deployment was essentially related to handling the chemical/nuclear emergency arising out of the quake and tsunami; however, the Nepal operation is our first massive post-quake search and rescue operation in a foreign country," he told TOI.

The NDRF teams engaged in Nepal have 90 "heavy team" personnel, with international standard training in quake rescue and relief. "It's also our first high-altitude operation," said Singh.

All NDRF teams pressed into post-quake rescue in India and abroad are equipped with equipment like cutters that can cut wood, concrete and metal; life detector machines; life-saving kits, breathing equipment, satellite phones and VHF/UHF sets. Paramedics, equipped with stretchers and a light dose of medicines, are part of the teams, which also comprise sniffer dogs.

Indian Meteorological Department chief Laxman Singh Rathore said that though the original quake, with its epicentre 77 km northwest of Kathmandu, measured 7.9 on Richter scale, as many as 14 aftershocks were felt of magnitude 5 and above.

The national crisis management centre (NCMC) headed by Cabinet secretary Ajit Seth met twice on Saturday, assessing the damage and requirements of the affected states and accordingly initiating rescue and relief measures. The meetings were attended by secretaries of several ministries, including the home secretary, as well as representatives of National Disaster Management Authority, NDRF, Army and IMD. A video-conference was held with chief secretaries of the affected states to review the situation.

"We are in touch with the chief secretaries concerned and will provide all help to the affected states," Goyal said while briefing media after the first NCMC meeting. While Bihar and UP have been provided NDRF personnel for assistance, West Bengal has not sought any help so far.