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New York’s Indian Community Buzzing Over Earthquake With PM-India-Quake, Bjt

October 2, 1993

NEW YORK (AP) _ A toll-free telephone line at Sam and Raj’s electronics store has been ringing constantly.

The Indian-owned store in Jackson Heights, the Queens neighborhood known as Little India, has become a clearinghouse for news about the worst earthquake in 50 years to strike India.

″People are calling us and just asking lots of questions,″ Nitin Vora, a manager of the 20-year-old store, said Friday. ″We don’t mind being an information center. We kind of expect it at this point and we just monitor the news more closely.″

Vora and Subhash Kapadia, another manager, got their information by fax from two New York-based national Indian newspapers of the latest wire service stories from India.

″Last week we talked about health care. This week it’s the earthquake,″ Kapadia said.

The News India-Times, a weekly newspaper, put out a free special eight-page edition about the earthquake on Thursday. Asked if the paper has been swamped with calls, its editor just laughed.

″Oh boy 3/8 Swamped? That would not begin to describe the hundreds of calls we’ve been getting,″ said John Perry, the editor and publisher. ″It’s been hell while we’ve been trying to put out our paper.″

Shopkeepers and residents along the neighborhood’s main strip were busy sharing details Friday about the quake in a mostly rural area of southwestern India.

″I was just terrified when I heard about it and then I rushed to call my mother and sister in Bombay,″ said Seema Vermani, a worker at Videoland, a store that sells and rents Indian movies.

The Jackson Heights Merchants Association, an organization comprising 100 businesses that are mostly Indian-owned, scheduled a meeting Monday to coordinate local relief efforts.

About 95,000 Indians live in New York, according to the 1990 U.S. Census.

Most of the Jackson Heights residents interviewed were from areas such as Punjab, Madras, Bombay, or Bangalore and had no relatives in the rural areas of Maharashtra state, where the worst damage occurred.

They are still concerned.

″Everybody’s talking about it and even though few people in Jackson Heights are from around there, we all want to help,″ Vermani said.

″I heard where it was and I just know how poorly supplied they are to deal with this,″ said Kapadia. ″So many poor people live there and so many more could be dead and they might not even know yet.″

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