4600 dead in Indonesian quake
29 May 2006
BANTUL: Rescue workers dug desperately for survivors yesterday and hospitals struggled to cope with the thousands of injured, a day after an earthquake killed more than 4600 people on Indonesia's Java island.
Up to 20,000 had been injured and more than 100,000 have been left homeless, UNICEF (the UN Children's Fund) spokesman John Budd told Reuters, but he said figures were still sketchy.
"Nobody really knows for sure simply because a lot of people were actually evacuated out ... in order to be treated and a lot of people who are injured have been turned away," Budd said.
Trucks full of volunteers from Indonesian political parties and Islamic groups, as well as military vehicles carrying soldiers, headed south from the ancient royal city of Yogyakarta to Bantul, hardest hit by the quake, to help in the effort.
"Kopassus (special forces troops) and Indonesian Red Cross volunteers are trying to comb through rubble because thousands of houses are damaged and people may still be trapped beneath them," Ghozali Situmorang, director general of aid management for the national social department, told Yogyakarta radio.
Medical supplies and body bags were arriving at the airport of Yogyakarta, about 25 km from the Indian Ocean coast where Saturday's 6.3 magnitude quake was centred just offshore.
A vulcanologist said the quake had heightened volcanic activity at nearby Mount Merapi, a volcano experts believe may be about to erupt. Merapi has been rumbling for weeks and sporadically emitting hot lava and highly toxic hot gas.
The official death toll jumped to 4611 last night, said the Social Affairs Ministry's disaster task force.
In the Bantul area, which accounted for more than 2000 of the deaths and where most buildings were flattened, makeshift plastic tents dotted the roads.
In the afternoon heat Sugiyo picked through the remnants of his brick home. He had been trapped with his family before being rescued by other village residents. His mother was killed.
"I found my motorcycle but it was destroyed, then I found the cupboard but it was broken too," said Sugiyo.
But his face lit up as he spotted a pink box containing diapers and baby clothes. "This is for my 2-year-old daughter," he said holding the box tightly in his arms.
Throughout the disaster-struck region, authorities struggled to deliver aid.
"The problem now is that we are still short of tents, many people are still living on the streets or open areas," said Suseno, a field officer of the Yogyakarta disaster task force.
Clean water was another problem, officials said. In Bantul all 12 water distribution systems had been either knocked out completely or were not working properly, UNICEF'S Budd said.
MANY STILL IN BED
Saturday's dawn quake struck while many were still in bed. Houses in the area tended to be poorly constructed, their wooden roofs collapsing on occupants when the quake shook.
Hospitals struggled to cope. Hundreds of people crammed the corridors and grounds of Yogyakarta's Bethesda hospital.
"There's a lot of severe injuries. It was definitely overwhelmed," said hospital volunteer Andrew Jeremijenko.
"I've been to the other hospitals. They're all overwhelmed. There are not enough nurses or doctors to cope with the load."
Saturday's quake was the third major tremor to hit Indonesia in 18 months. The worst, the December 26, 2004 quake and its resulting tsunami, left some 170,000 people dead or missing around Aceh. Indonesia sits on the Asia-Pacific's so-called "Ring of Fire", marked by heavy volcanic and tectonic activity.
Yesteday morning, a quake measuring 6.7 in magnitude struck the South Pacific island nation of Tonga and the New Britain region of Papua New Guinea was shaken by a 6.2 magnitude quake, the US Geological Survey said.
WORLD TRIES TO HELP
The international community has rallied to help Indonesia, offering medical relief teams and emergency supplies. The United Nations, which played a major humanitarian role in Indonesia's past natural disasters including the tsunami, also sent aid.
Australia and the United States have also pledged to send humanitarian aid worth $US2.5 million and $US2.2 million respectively.
US President George W. Bush called his Indonesian counterpart, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to express condolences. Yudhoyono has temporarily moved his office to Yogyakarta to be close to the rescue effort.
A prime tourist attraction, Yogyakarta is home to ancient and protected heritage sites such as Borobudur, the biggest Buddhist monument on Earth, which survived the quake.
But the Prambanan Hindu temple complex near the city suffered some damage, as did the roads and houses near it, a Reuters witness said. Some residents were begging passing motorists for money, he added.
Local media reported that outer sections of Yogyakarta's centuries-old royal palaces had also collapsed