Drive to aid Indonesia
The relief effort has moved slowly toward Yogyakarta after Saturday's deadly earthquake.
BANTUL AND YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA — The rumble of C-130 cargo planes over the ancient Indonesian city of Yogyakarta Monday marked the slow but increasing flow of emergency aid to survivors of Saturday's quake.
The scale of the relief effort needed is still coming into focus. The magnitude 6.3 temblor that rocked the island of Java has left more than 5,000 dead and at least 150,000 people homeless, according to UN and Indonesian official estimates.
Food, medicine, and tents began arriving after the quake-damaged airport reopened to aid flights on Sunday. The International Red Cross, for example, says it has already sent a field hospital and 2,000 tents, with 8,000 more on the way. But as of Monday, most of the aid had yet to be distributed beyond the capital here.
Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who spent Saturday night sleeping in a tent with quake surivivors, said relief efforts reflected a "lack of coordination."
"There is a lack of clothes, food, of everything. We need help," says Sugiharto, who lives in Bantul, the worst-hit area south of Yogyakarta. Sugiharto's two sons were trapped in the rubble for 30 minutes before he was able to pull them out. Like many of the thousands injured in the quake, one of Sugiharto's sons had two broken legs.
Some 80 percent of the homes in Bantul were destroyed. The Indonesian government estimates as many as 35,000 homes and buildings on the island of Java were reduced to rubble.
In Sugiharto's tiny village, some 25 survivors - ranging in age from 1 to 80 - sat under blue tarps staring out at a relentless rain that has fallen each night since the quake.
The aid that did arrive on Monday inched along rubble-choked roads. Residents, some who said they lost their entire families, gathered into isolated encampments following the temblor. But most stayed put, saying they prefer the familiarity of their devastated villages to low-lying camps scattered nearby.
As with the December 2004 tsunami that devastated villages in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, many of the first groups to provide help to the Java quake survivors were nongovernmental organizations.
Food distribution has fallen to private citizens who have been driving their SUVs into the rice paddy fields handing out eggs, cookies, cooking oil, and rice. One government truck drove by announcing the location of a food pickup point, say residents, but no food was found at the site.
Islamic political groups are stepping in to help, already establishing camps housing as many as 600 people.
Monday, rescue workers and some distraught relatives continued to search collapsed buildings, even as aftershocks continued through the weekend.
In Yogyakarta, boxes stenciled with "Japanese Disaster Response Team" arrived in hotel lobbies and the distinctive white UN vehicles began to ply the roads. Although inadequate for the scale of this disaster, some international and Indonesia aid was already here prior to Saturday's quake to support villagers evacuating from the sides of Mt. Merapi, a nearby volcano threatening to erupt.
For example, Oxfam, with a branch in Yogyakarta, has already distributed 600 tents, 1,600 tarpaulins, and 6,000 hygiene kits. The World Food Program is sending 200 tons of food.
Since Saturday, more than a dozen national governments have pledged assistance. The US has committed $2.5 million in aid and is sending 100 doctors, nurses, and medical technicians from a base in Okinawa, Japan. Britain has pledged $5.6 million to be channeled through UN relief efforts. The European Union pledged $3.8 million, China is sending $2 million, and Japan almost $1 million plus medical teams.
International aid agencies met in Geneva Monday to coordinate relief and brief donor nations on the specific kinds of help needed.
Yet residents in the ruins of some isolated villages said they had not yet seen a government or aid worker.
The Indonesian military sent teams to the province to rescue survivors, residents said, along with about 600 military cadets here clearing debris and starting reconstruction.
The government's attention appears to be focused on overwhelmed hospitals where doctors have been triaging patients crammed into hallways and courtyards. Hundreds of victims are lying on newspapers, plastic tarpaulins, and even banana and palm leaves. Nurses were forced to set up intravenous drips using trees in car parks as props.
Budi Mulyono, a spokesman for the Sardjito Hospital, says they needed more of everything, including doctors, medical supplies, and tents.
At Yogyakarta's Muhammadiyah Hospital, which is filled to seven times its normal capacity, paramedic Gunawan says, "Our doctors and nurses were included among the victims. So you can imagine our situation. This is the best I can do at the moment."
Many had feared devastation and death on the scale that followed the tsunami in in 2004. The quake death toll by Monday night reached 5,140, according to Biwara Yuswantana, a government spokesperson, although it was expected to keep climbing.
The two disasters differed in another way as well, says Gunawan, who worked as a medic in Aceh for five months.
"The difference is the [nature of the injuries suffered by] victims and the lack of dead bodies, says Gunawan. 'In this earthquake, there were bodies, but there were also true emergency patients."
In the coming days, aid workers cite several local conditions that will help their relief effort. Yogyakarta airport is functioning. And unlike Aceh, most roads were undamaged. In fact, much of the area's infrastructure, including communications towers, sewage facilities, and government offices were left largely intact.
By nightfall Monday, thick rains fell on thousands of the displaced, sheltering in tent settlements, parking lots, and rice fields.
"My house was flattened, everything was flattened," says Wati, a grandmother, who, like many Indonesians, only uses one name. She crouched with her two grandchildren in a deserted shop opposite the main buildings of an Islamic university in Yogyakarta that had been tipped sideways by the quake.
Residents of the rice-growing towns of Bantul and Klaten, the worst hit areas, had been watching the grumbling volcano Mt. Merapi, that has been spewing clouds of ash and gas in recent weeks.
Activity in the volcano has tripled since Saturday's earthquake, with hot clouds spewed out an average of 150 times a day, compared with 50 times before, said Subandriyo, chief of the Merapi volcanology and monitoring office.
"The earthquake has caused instability in the lava dome," Subandriyo told the Associated Press. "There is still a chance that a big eruption might occur."
Chew Soon Hoe, an associate professor of engineering geology at the National University of Singapore, says Merapi's renewed activity and the earthquake are related. Both are in the same subduction zone - the area where one tectonic plate slides under another plate - along a boundary between the Euro-Asia plate and the India-Australia plate, he says.
"This ocean plate ... is the cause of the recent earthquake and volcanic activity in Indonesia," Mr. Chew says. "Because it is very near, the energy released by the quake will accelerate or perturb the activity of the volcano."
David Booth, a seismologist with the British Geological Survey, disagrees, saying the quake would not necessarily cause the volcano to erupt. He says the plates that shifted to cause the earthquake did not necessarily open cracks in the surface that would be needed to cause a volcanic eruption.
Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago sits atop the Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines around the Pacific basin. Indonesia has some 129 active volcanoes.
• Reporting from the wire services was used in this story.