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Mourning the dead in Bhuj

A Hindu priest prays for the dead
A Hindu priest prays for the dead  

In this story:

Salvaging what is left

Signs of life return


Journalist Kasra Naji is in the town of Bhuj, in the West Indian state of Gujarat. Bhuj is one of the areas worst hit by last month's earthquake. He describes the scene Wednesday in Bhuj.

BHUJ, India (CNN) -- Twelve days after the earthquake, Hindu priests held ceremonies in Bhuj to pray for the dead. They built fires in sacrificial pits, which is supposed to encourage the human soul to make the transition from earth to heaven.

It was a somber occasion. Hindu priests chanted as mourners looked on. Some of the bereaved had shaved their heads, a sign of mourning in Hindu tradition. It's a ritual often conducted in the privacy of the home. But here in Bhuj so many are now homeless.

CNN's Kasra Naji has more on the relief efforts in India (February 6)

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Across the street from where the ceremony was held, we saw army engineers studying a map of the old part of town, which was heavily populated, and full of narrow lanes. Most of these lanes are still blocked, making many of the old houses inaccessible.

Salvaging what is left

Further on, we saw a bulldozer working to remove a big heap of rubble. The workers had already found 10 bodies in last few days and believed they would find 5 more under there. On Wednesday in Bhuj alone, they found 92 more bodies.

Further again in narrow lanes that are open, you see people, mostly young, male members of families who are coming back to houses to salvage what they can of their belongings.

They are taking a risk, getting into houses so badly damaged they are dangerous. They emerge with clothes, TV's, personal items. For the living, life has to go on.

Signs of life return

In other parts of town , we see soup kitchens being set up in some neighborhoods. One or two shops are opening. Aid agencies are everywhere, distributing things, setting up hospitals.

Earthquake survivors line up for food and water outside a tent in Bhuj
Earthquake survivors line up for food and water outside a tent in Bhuj  

The Red Cross hospital is going to take the load of the three hospitals Bhuj once had. Another agency is putting up a field hospital.

Electricity is coming back. But running water is still a problem. Hundreds of thousands of people are living out in the open throughout this region.

Those without shelter wonder how long they will have to live this way. Sanitation is a major problem and there are fears of epidemics breaking out.

When you talk to aid workers, they say nobody is going hungry; what they need now is tents and other construction materials with which they can set up temporary shelters.

The deadline for this is mid-year -- the monsoon season. Whatever they do about housing people, has to be done before then.

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India quake: 'Nothing left between the sky and earth'
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U.S. Geological Survey
UNICEF Relief Effort
International Red Cross and Red Crescent

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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