GENEVA, Jan. 26 (AP) - The international Red Cross on Friday launched an appeal for 2 million Swiss francs ($1.25 million) to support emergency relief operations in the wake of the India's devastating earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people.
"The first priority is to provide adequate funds to the Indian Red Cross to enable it to buy urgently-needed relief items, all or most of which can be purchased locally," said a statement from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which groups national Red Cross societies worldwide and is active in natural disasters.
"These include clothes, blankets, basic medical supplies, shelter and construction materials and provision of clean water and sanitation materials."
The statement said that Red Cross officials were headed to the disaster zone to assess the needs more fully. "Our greatest concern is that the crisis is still unfolding," it said. "It's a very isolated area and we don't yet have the complete picture; many people may still be trapped."
Friday's earthquake was the most powerfull to strike India in a half century. In addition to the more than 2,000 so far known dead, some 3,000 were injured. Survivors spent the night by campfires near the rubble of their homes.
``The earthquake is a calamity of national magnitude,'' Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said. ``We have decided to meet the emergency on a war footing. This is the time for people to rally around.''
The quake struck at 8:50 a.m. as many cities were beginning celebrations for India's 51st Republic Day, which commemorates the adoption of the country's constitution.
In Ahmedabad, 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.
The Indian government said it was flying 10,000 tents, 10,000 tons of grain, 20 doctors and surgeons, communications and seismology experts to Gujarat. President George W. Bush said the United States is willing to provide assistance if needed, and the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance announced that it will send a five-member earthquake assessment team to India on Sunday.
Religious aid groups also swung into action, collecting funds for the relief effort.
Millions of Hindus at the world's largest religious gathering in Allahabad, in Uttar Pradesh state, more than 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) east of the epicenter, felt the ground sway under them. No injuries were reported.