Mourning the dead 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.
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.
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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