Residents of this industrial city ignored last-minute warnings that a rain-weakened dam six miles upstream was about to break, survivors said today. The hunt for victims continued and politicans' estimates of the final death toll ranged as high as 15,000.
Hours after the warning was broadcast across the city by loudspeakers, a 30-foot wall of water smashed through town, destroying 60 percent of the houses.
Officials said about 1,000 bodies have been recovered from the muddy ruins of the city and its surrounding countryside. Chief Minister Babuhai Patel said he did not expect the toll to increase greatly. An estimated 30,000 survivors have left Morvi, which had a population of more than 60,000.
Local politicians' estimate of the total death toll ranged from "less than 5,000," according to the Gujarat state agriculture secretary, H. K. Khna, to "10,000 to 15,000" by Vice President Vallabhai Patel of the state's ruling Janata Party.
Government spokesmen, however, said estimates by local politicians who toured the area in northwest India that 15,000 people died were "highly exaggerated."
Local residents said a watchman at the 12,700-foot-wide, 75-foot-high Monchi Dam reported last Friday that the water level was rising "dangerously" after 48 hours of heavy rain. A local alert was flashed Saturday on the city's loudspeaker system, but few people believed the dam would break, the residents said. The dam, constructed in 1972, collapsed Saturday evening.
Flood waters have receded from the devastated city, but many villages in the surrounding area still were inundated. A flight over the affected areas showed few traces of the many straw-roofed mud huts that had dotted the countryside before the flood.
Agriculture Minister Keshubhai Patel, however, said that in several small villages where large numbers of homes were destroyed, everyone survived.