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Indonesia quake toll tops 5,000


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Atnevon

Atnevon

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By Lewa Pardomuan

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia (Reuters) - Aid was just 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 official death toll from the 6.3 magnitude quake 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 100,000 homeless.

"I am still traumatized, especially when it rained last night," said Sartoyo, who had come to Yogyakarta's main hospital from a nearby village. "I heard help is on the way," he added. "We badly need tents, please note that. Do not forsake us."

Government and private aid agencies agree shelter in the form of tents is a top aid priority, along with clean water supplies.

BURYING THE DEAD

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.

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," Priyohadi said.

Up to 35,000 homes and buildings in and around Yogyakarta were reduced to rubble, and by Monday morning chances were slim that people would still be pulled out alive.

Although the aid was arriving slower than some on the ground wished, the international community has rallied to help, pledging tens of millions of dollars and offering medical relief teams, disaster experts and emergency supplies.

The government declared a three-month emergency and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono moved his office to Yogyakarta.

After a cabinet meeting late on Sunday, Vice President Jusuf Kalla put relief and rebuilding costs at around 1 trillion rupiah ($107 million) and said the government aimed to complete reconstruction within a year.

Kalla said the quake had badly damaged power facilities and deprived tens of thousands of electricity.

Medical supplies and body bags arrived at the airport of Yogyakarta, about 25 km (16 miles) from the coast. The airport was closed to commercial traffic, but could be reopened by Tuesday, transportation minister Hatta Rajasat said.

LATEST MISFORTUNE

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

A vulcanologist said the quake had heightened activity at nearby Mount Merapi, a volcano that experts believe may be about to erupt. Merapi has been rumbling for weeks and sporadically emitting hot lava and highly toxic hot gas.

Throughout the region, authorities struggled to deliver aid to a disaster zone that encompassed hundreds of square miles of verdant rice paddies and densely populated villages, w.

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 one of the worst disasters in the history of modern Indonesia. 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 is a prime tourist attraction, 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 suffered some damage, as did nearby roads and houses, a Reuters witness said. Local media reported that outer sections of Yogyakarta's centuries-old royal palaces had also collapsed.

Source: Reuters
The sky was the color of a television, tuned to a dead channel. - William Gibson




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