— Residents in the Gujarat State of western India spent the night outside Friday, too fearful to go back into their damaged homes after India’s most powerful earthquake in half a century. The 7.9 magnitude earthquake killed as many as 2,000, injured at least 2,000, and left 4,000 missing. Most of the missing are thought to be buried under rubble, and rescue workers dug frantically with bulldozers, shovels, sticks — even bare hands — trying to find them. “The earthquake is a calamity of national magnitude,” said Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who planned a trip to the area to survey damage. “We have decided to meet the emergency on a war footing,” he said. “This is the time for people to rally around.” MESSAGE BOARD The temblor shook high-rise towers 600 miles away in the capital, New Delhi. The quake could be felt as far as 1,200 miles away in Calcutta and coastal Bangladesh. The quake struck at 8:46 a.m. as many cities were beginning celebrations for India’s 51st Republic Day, which commemorates the adoption of the country’s constitution. ‘There is great panic’ In Ahmadabad, Gujarat’s commercial capital and a sprawling city of 4.5 million, helmeted rescue workers used iron rods to pry slabs of concrete and metal, searching for survivors. Women wept and rocked back and forth, watching as the few available bulldozers and cranes pushed through the piles of stone that once had housed families and shops. Beds, children’s toys and clothes lay abandoned in the debris, lamp posts and electric pylons were twisted and many buildings were left leaning precariously. After night fell, with temperatures at 55 degrees, survivors spread blankets and huddled around campfires. “There is a great panic among the people and they have spilled out onto the streets,” said Haren Panya, home minister of Gujarat. Because of the aftershocks, “We have asked people to move out of old buildings.” Corpse…
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