Nearest settlement to the Epicentre of 2001 earthquake: Chobari nonetheless bears scars of devastation

Manji Meriya (50) and his relations are digging the positioning the place their home bought buried 20 years in the past within the earthquake in Chobari village of Bhachau taluka, the closest human settlement to the epicentre, decided to be 9 kms from right here. The devastating quake of January 26, 2001, which measured 7.7 on the Richter scale, killed 13,805 folks and left 1.67 lakh injured.
As Meriya strikes the foundations with a mattock, the soil clears revealing previous stones within the particles. “We were five brothers living together in this house. We were basking in the sun that cold morning when the earth shook violently and reduced the entire house into a heap of rubble, burying alive my brother’s eight-year-old daughter who was inside,” Meriya says as he digs out the buried sandstones.
“I am trying to rebuild the house. Perhaps I am the last one to do so in this village. All the houses that you see around were rebuilt after the earthquake that flattened every standing structure in the village, except the Ram temple,” says Meriya.

Around 3,200 homes within the village have been rebuilt throughout the huge rehabilitation train carried out after the earthquake the place 88 per cent of these killed have been from Kutch district. Meriya’s household moved out to the east facet of the village after they purchased a brand new plot of land. “We five brothers still live together,” he says.
Till 2001, Chobari was a close-knit village of Bhachau taluka with 3,200 homes of Kutchi, Sindhi and Gujarati talking households. It is 120 km from Dholavira, the Indus Valley Civilisation website, which is the final accessible level near the Indo-Pak border. The foremost supply of livelihood is farming the place the primary crops are cumin and isagbol.
A seismological system contained in the publish workplace; Children play within the slim lanes. (Photo: Nirmal Harindran)
The village misplaced 648 of its folks. Chobari, one of many 890 affected villages in Kutch, was flattened. For few months after the earthquake, villagers in Chobari mentioned they lived in tents supplied by Indian and overseas aid suppliers. Reconstruction and rehabilitation started after the Gujarat authorities distributed money doles value Rs 73 crore to 9.11 lakh households throughout the state. This was along with the demise and damage compensation of Rs 121 crore and Rs 17 crore respectively.
Chobari, which was as soon as a unit related by slim lanes with the Ram temple as its pivotal construction, is at this time scattered throughout seven completely different areas.
“Before the earthquake, the village was restricted within an area of one square kilometre. Today it is spread over 4 kilometres and has seven settlements, including Kabir Nagar, Madina Nagar, Ekta Nagar, Ghanshyam Nagar, Krishna Nagar, Chamunda Nagar and Navi Chobari. People migrated to their farms because there was so much debris that rebuilding houses on a immediate basis was not possible. However, all these new settlements are ruled by one panchayat,” mentioned Velji Dhila, sarpanch of Chobari.
According to Dhila, the earthquake put the little recognized Chobari village “in the world map”. “Massive reconstruction efforts to rebuild 3,200 houses destroyed at the epicentre was carried out. Government gave aid ranging between Rs 60,000 and 90,000,” mentioned Velji who was 21 years previous again then.
The rising price of land boosted by the piped ingesting water connection within the village after the earthquake have been incentives for Meriya to reconstruct on the identical location. Just 50 metres away from Meriya’s previous home is the previous bus stand and the road that housed a bustling foremost market of Chobari.
Mohanlal Gosai relaxes exterior his store, the oldest kiosk within the village. (Photo: Nirmal Harindran)
Now the road is roofed with a thick vegetation of babool (prosopis juliflora) grown on the stays of the retailers that when stood right here. Both the market and the bus stand have moved to the primary street that connects Chobari with Bhachau city.
Mohanlal Gosai, who has a kiosk promoting every day necessities, says his store was on the outskirts earlier than 2001. “Today the rebuilt village has grown all around and now my shop is in the centre. We never thought we will recover (from the quake impact). Today we have round-the-clock electricity, Narmada canal, piped drinking water, five primary schools, and now people own a lot of four-wheelers,” says Gosai, 68. The village had electrical energy earlier than the earthquake, however there have been frequent energy cuts.
Gosai says, “Members of Jains, Khatri and Thakkar communities who owned shops in this village and were largely involved in trading, have all moved out of the village to larger cities like Mumbai.”
The new Chobari village of over 1,800 homes with a inhabitants of 8,000-10,000 nonetheless doesn’t have a police station. One of the streets from the Ram temple that was on the centre of the village earlier than the quake, results in a double-storey constructing that was once the police station. Now it’s coated with tall babool timber. It is without doubt one of the few concrete buildings within the village that reminds guests of the depth of the quake.
“The police station was newly built when the earthquake happened. It has not been reconstructed and the village with over 10,000 population remains without a functioning police station. Over the years, the doors and windows of the police station got stolen too,” says Bharat Ahir, who owns the farm adjoining the police station the place he grows cumin.
Assistant sub-inspector Harjiba Gadhavi from Bhachau police station who’s answerable for Chobari, says, “I have to travel all the way from Bhachau town (25 kilometres) whenever there is an issue,” says Gadhavi who rides a Maruti 800 automotive.
The ripple results of the quake centred at Chobari have been felt in 16 districts, so far as Navsari (17 deaths) in South Gujarat and Porbandar (10 deaths) in west. With colleges open that day to have fun Republic Day, 971 kids died and 1,051 others have been injured.
Once densely populated, the previous centre of the village near the Ram temple is basically empty. “The survivors have bitter memories of losing their loved ones and have chosen to rebuild their houses near their farms further away from the village. They, however, built small shrines at spots where their homes were…. you can see a lot of hut-like structures with saffron flags over them. The family members light lamps here everyday,” says Ramji Meriya, who runs an outside camp for vacationers visiting the area that had Dholavira and Flamingo City within the neighborhood.
Sulaiman Majuti, a survivor and clerk who handles official information on the village, on the new panchayat workplace the place a plaque lists the reconstruction particulars of the constructing. (Photo: Nirmal Harindran)
The damaged summit of a Jain temple is roofed in a thick layer of soil and vegetation, whereas solely the inspiration of the panchayat constructing near the Ram temple is seen.
Sulaiman Majuti, 55, who’s a clerk within the village panchayat and bought saved as he was within the compound, says, “It (the panchayat) was an old building that fell down killing a number of children and adults who had gathered for flag hoisting to celebrate Republic Day… About 45 bodies were found under the collapsed panchayat building.” He sits behind a stack of recordsdata within the reconstructed constructing, 50 metres from the previous one, musing how his earlier office had “more facilities” whereas the present one is “basic”. The room he occupies has a plaque containing the reconstruction particulars of the constructing.
Close to the panchayat, seismographs have been put in inside a “skill development centre” by the Gandhinagar-based Institute of Seismology Research (ISR) to review seismic exercise within the area since 2005.
Officiating director normal of ISR, Dr Sumer Chopra, says, “Due to the 2001 earthquake in Kutch, all the faults have become active in the area. The maximum activity being recorded is 4-5 on the Richter Scale. We record 300-400 earthquakes every year, in the Kutch region alone.”
The Kutch mainland fault, South Vagad fault, North Vagad fault, Allah Bund fault are among the many main faults which can be energetic in Kutch at this time. ISR has arrange 80 seismographs in Kutch area to review and monitor the seismic exercise. They are linked via the satellite tv for pc and provides real-time information. In Vamka village, round 20 km from right here, ISR has arrange a multi-parametric geophysical observatory which displays seismic exercise.