On January 26th, India’s Republic Day, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake shook Gujarat state in western India. In New Delhi, 1,000 km (625 mi) to the northeast, tremors from the quake shook our house for 30 seconds. Little did we realize at the time what had just taken place—the most devastating earthquake India has suffered in decades.
The first news reports later that day showed widespread death and destruction in Gujarat. Tens of thousands of people lay buried under the rubble of their houses. Confusion and chaos reigned. No one knew where to start in the rescue and relief effort.
A month later, the death toll stood at nearly 20,000 and the number of injured at 166,000. Had the quake not hit on Republic Day, a national holiday when millions participate in parades and other outdoor celebrations, thousands more people would probably have perished when their homes collapsed. Over 600,000 people were left homeless, and 15.9 million people were directly or indirectly affected. Property damage may be as high as $5 billion.
Within hours of the quake, representatives from each Family community in New Delhi met to pray and discuss how we could work together to bring relief and comfort to the survivors. Over the next few days, with the help of friends from the local community, we quickly mobilized two large truckloads of food, blankets, tents, medicines, and water. A team of Family India volunteers, along with nurses and a doctor, took the goods to earthquake victims.
After two days of travel, the first team reached the villages of Bhuj and Bachau, which were hardest hit. Few buildings were left standing; rubble was everywhere. The army had been called in to keep the peace. Survivors were sleeping out in the open. Strong aftershocks continued day and night.
In the days that followed, the team distributed food, water, blankets, and medicine to the survivors, tended to the injured, listened to and comforted those who had lost loved ones, and put up hundreds of tents as temporary shelter for those who had lost their homes. They also made a special effort to comfort and care for children who had lost parents or brothers and sisters.
Meanwhile, other Family India volunteers back in New Delhi continued to collect tons of relief supplies. Other teams took the relief to Gujarat and stayed to comfort and assist the needy in villages that had been near the epicenter of the quake.
Originally Published in 2001.