Grieving survivors scavenge for food

0

BANTUL, Indonesia (AP) – Tens of thousands camped out for a second night Sunday in streets, cassava fields and the paths between rice paddies as the death toll from Indonesia’s earthquake rose to nearly 5,000.

Rattled by hundreds of aftershocks, exhausted and grieving survivors scavenged for food and clothes in the brick, wood and tile rubble of their flattened houses. They pleaded for aid, which – despite worldwide pledges of tens of millions of dollars and planes carrying medicine and food – seemed to be coming too slow.

The first U.N. aid flight arrived Monday carrying water, tents, stoves and cooking sets.

Torrential rain late Sunday added to the misery of some 200,000 people left homeless by Saturday’s 6.3-magnitude quake, most of them living in makeshift shelters of plastic, canvas or cardboard. Thousands of wounded awaited treatment in hospitals overflowing with bloodied patients.

“So far no one from the government has shown any care for us,” said villager Brojo Sukardi. “Please tell people to help us.”

The death toll stood at 4,983 on Monday, according to the Social Ministry.

The quake on the island of Java was the fourth destructive temblor to hit Indonesia in the last 17 months, including the one that spawned the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami that killed 230,000 people across Asia, most of them on this Indian Ocean archipelago.

The country also is coping with the bird flu crisis, Islamic militant terror attacks, and the threat of eruption from Mount Merapi. The quake not only raised activity at the rumbling volcano but also damaged the 9th-century Prambanan temple, a U.N. world heritage site.

The disaster zone covered hundreds of square miles of mostly farming communities to the south of the ancient city of Yogyakarta. Power and telephone service was out Sunday across much of the region. As many as 450 aftershocks followed, the strongest a magnitude 5.2.

The worst devastation was in the Bantul district, which accounted for three-quarters of the deaths. One man dug his 5-year-old daughter out of the rubble of her bedroom only to have her die in a hospital awaiting treatment with hundreds of others.

“Her last words were ‘Daddy, Daddy,”‘ said Poniran, who like many Indonesians uses only one name.

“I have to start my life from zero again.”

In Peni, a hamlet on Bantul’s southern outskirts, 20 residents searched for a neighbor after finding the bodies of his wife and three children. Villagers set up simple clinics despite shortages in medicine and equipment. Women cooked catfish from a nearby pond for dozens of people huddled under a large tent.

The U.N. World Food Program started distributing emergency food rations Sunday, with three trucks bringing high-energy biscuits to some of the worst-hit districts and two Singapore military cargo planes landing with doctors and medical supplies.

“I regret the slow distribution of aid,” Idam Samawi, the Bantul district chief, told The Associated Press.

“Many government officials have no sensitivity to this. They work slowly under complicated bureaucracy, while survivors are racing against death and disease.”

Hundreds of villagers stood along roads on Monday with boxes to collect money from passing vehicles for the quake survivors.

“We need help. Anything at all,” one sign read.

The earthquake hit at 5:54 a.m. as most people slept, caving in tile roofs and sending walls crashing down. Survivors screamed as they ran from their homes, some clutching bloodied children and the elderly.

The quake’s epicenter was 50 miles south of the volcano, and activity increased soon after the temblor. A large burst spewed hot clouds and sent debris cascading some two miles down its western flank. No one was injured because nearby residents had been evacuated.

Officials said the famed 7th-century Borobudur Buddhist temple, one of Indonesia’s famed tourist attractions, was not affected. But Prambanan, a spectacular Hindu temple to the southeast, suffered serious damage, with hundreds of stone carvings and blocks scattered around the ancient site.

It will be closed until archeologists can determine whether the foundation was damaged, Agus Waluyo, head of the Yogyakarta Archaeological Conservation Agency, said Sunday. Close to 1 million tourists visit the Borobudur and Prambanan temples every year.

International agencies and nations across Europe and Asia pledged tens of millions of dollars in aid and prepared shipments of tents, blankets, generators, water purification equipment and other supplies.

The United States promised $2.5 million; the European Union granted $3.8 million. Indonesia said late Sunday it would allocate $107 million to help rebuild over the next year.

Indonesia, the world’s largest island chain, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the so-called “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin. It has 76 volcanos, the largest number in the world.


Advertisement
SHARE