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Indonesia Quake Toll Tops 5,000 - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia (Reuters) -Aid was trickling in on Monday for survivors of an earthquake that killed more than 5,000 people on Indonesia’s Java island and left tens of thousands of homeless foraging for food and shelter.

Many survivors who were injured or whose homes were destroyed by the quake spent a rainy Sunday night in the open on the grounds of hospitals and mosques or in makeshift shelters beside the rubble of their houses.

The 6.3 magnitude quake’s official death toll reached 5,136. The tremor early on Saturday was centered just off the Indian Ocean coast near Yogyakarta, the former Javanese royal capital.

Government figures put the number of injured at 2,155, but the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said there were 20,000 injured and more than 130,000 homeless, of which 40 percent are children.

Hospital lists of the dead also showed children and old people, who had a harder time scrambling from houses as they collapsed, as disproportionately represented among the victims.

Those who survived were meanwhile struggling to get by.

In the hard-hit Bantul area of the island, Sutrisno, carrying his 13-month-old baby son, said his village had been reduced to rubble. He has been living in a tent since Saturday.

“Food is still hard to get, aid is still lacking … I don’t know when help will come,” he told Reuters.

Suripto, from the same village, said: “I don’t know why help has been slow to (reach) the poor people.”

Many who lost their homes lack even tents, and government and private aid agencies say shelter is a top aid priority, along with clean water.

“We need to provide food and tents … people in hospital could have been discharged with minor injuries but they are there because they have no home to go to,” said Janet Askew, a Red Cross official.

Yogyakarta’s provincial secretary, Bambang Susanto Priyohadi, said the pace of aid needed to be stepped up.

“The aid has come since last night from the U.N. But when I checked this morning, the amount is very minimal,” he said. “For such a large number of victims, we at least need 5,000 tents. At the moment we only have less than 100.

Priyohadi said evacuating the dead was another priority.

“It has been two days and those bodies probably have decomposed and if we do not move them away from the pockets of population, they could turn into sources of disease.”

Up to 35,000 homes and buildings in and around Yogyakarta were reduced to rubble.

Although the aid was arriving slower than some wished, the international community has rallied, pledging millions of dollars as well as medical relief teams, disaster experts and emergency supplies.

Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari said doctors and medicines were being sent to affected areas to prevent outbreaks of diseases such as measles and malaria.

Health and hygiene kits for tens of thousands of people as well as water supply carriages, had reached the hardest-hit area of Bantul, John Budd, UNICEF spokesman in Jakarta, told Reuters.

The World Food Programme was distributing 30 tonnes of enriched biscuits, enough to feed 20,000 people for a week.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla has put relief and rebuilding costs at around 1 trillion rupiah ($107 million) and said the government aimed to complete reconstruction within a year.

The quake badly damaged power facilities and deprived tens of thousands of electricity, and authorities were struggling to deliver aid to a disaster zone of hundreds of square miles.

Social Minister Bachtiar Chamsyah urged understanding. “I have already told you that the area destroyed by the quake is very large … We need time.

Saturday’s quake was the latest misfortune to hit the world’s fourth-most populated country after Islamic militant bombings, bird flu outbreaks and the massive 2004 quake and tsunami.

A vulcanologist said the quake heightened activity at nearby Mount Merapi, a volcano that has been rumbling for weeks and sporadically emitting hot lava and highly toxic hot gas.

Saturday’s quake was one of the worst disasters in modern Indonesia’s history. 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.

Yogyakarta, 25 km (16 miles) from the coast, is a tourist center. Ancient and protected heritage sites such as Borobudur, the biggest Buddhist monument on earth, dot the area.

Borobudur survived the quake but the Prambanan Hindu temple complex suffered some damage. Local media said parts of Yogyakarta’s centuries-old royal palaces had also collapsed.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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