Thursday, October 28, 2010

Indonesian quake-tsunami aid trickles in

Jakarta : Aid was trickling in Thursday to Indonesia's Mentawai islands three days after a powerful earthquake—triggered tsunami devastated the area leaving over 300 dead, officials said.

Bambang Suharjo, an official at the provincial Disaster Management Agency put the official death toll from Monday's 7.7—magnitude earthquake at 311, while 379 people were listed as missing and around 400 were injured.

As many as 4,000 villagers were homeless and staying at temporary shelters or had sought refuge on higher ground after the tsunami swept away their houses, he said.

A survivor recalled events when the tsunami struck and ravaged her home. "My husband and my son have not been found," said 20—year—old housewife Chandra among tears. She said that she has been swept away by the high waves and got caught in a palm tree before she was rescued by a man. "Otherwise, I wouldn't have survived," she said.

Mr. Suharjo said that more food and other aid was expected. "More assistance is on its way. But to reach there will takes some time." Other officials explained that reaching the quake—ravaged islands by ferry would take up to 10 hours from the provincial capital of Padang.

Nelis Zuliasri, a spokeswoman for the National Disaster Management Agency, said aid from Jakarta arrived at around midnight on Wednesday.

Around 2,400 displaced people in Pagai Selatan district had not received any assistance, she said, due to difficult road access to the area.

A shortage of fuel had also prevented vehicles from distributing aid, she added.

"The field is very difficult because it consists of small islands located in the open sea," said Social Affairs Mister Segaf Al Jufri, who accompanied Vice-President Boediono visiting Pagai Selatan district.

"Until now, there are 11 hamlets in Pagai Selatan yet impenetrable, so we do not yet know the condition of 1,945 citizens there," he was quoted as saying by Kompas daily.

Medical supplies at the public health centres were running low, Mentawai disaster relief agency official Joskamtir was quoted as saying by the state—run Antara news agency.

"We also desperately need hundreds more body bags, face masks for the survivors because the stench began to sting, especially at night," he said. More bodies had been discovered but rescue workers did not have enough body bags and he said he feared the onset of diseases.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was scheduled to fly to Mentawai on Thursday to monitor the conditions there. Mr. Yudhoyono cut short a visit to Vietnam after the country was hit by the quake and tsunami, as well as a volcanic eruption in Central Java.
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