Tsunami responders primed by recent calamities
Relief groups say survivors are getting enough aid, at least in the emergency's initial stages.
PANGANDARAN, INDONESIA — Hundreds of police, military, and relief workers continued to clear debris as well as retrieve and bury the dead three days after a tsunami struck this once idyllic coastal resort town.
Each night, survivors crowd into camps that hold thousands of people. Some return during the day to scavenge in the ruins of their homes. Salt water has contaminated many wells and made drinking water a precious commodity.
So far, say relief groups in Pangandaran, no shortages of food or medicine have been reported and survivors are receiving enough aid, at least in the emergency's initial stages.
"I think we just need a few more days time here and things will be settled," says Herman Widjaja, a member of the Buddhist aid organization Tzu Chi. "Especially nowadays, the new government is really taking care of these matters.... They're coordinated quite well."
The limited scale of the disaster, and easy access for relief supplies, have helped rescuers in comparison to the deadly 2004 tsunami that killed more than 170,000 people in Indonesia or the recent Yogyakarta earthquake that leveled 150,000 homes and killed about 5,000 people. In both cases, the vast area of the devastation areas complicated humanitarian efforts.
Officials reported the death toll from Monday's tsunami as 531, with more than 270 others missing on the southern coast of the island of Java. Twenty-three more bodies were uncovered on Thursday.
A magnitude 7.7 earthquake in the Indian Ocean touched off the rushing wall of water – by some estimates as high as 20 feet. Residents barely noticed the tremor until a roaring wave engulfed the town 45 minutes later, sweeping 1,600 feet inland and crashing against some 110 miles of Indonesia's shoreline.
The recent string of natural disasters has kept relief organization well-stocked and primed to distribute aid quickly. In Pangandaran, the relief group Save the Children says it will hand over aid work to local authorities once the emergency passes.
"Most organizations including our own are using donated funds and have not launched international appeals ," says Jon Bugge, spokesman for Save the Children in Indonesia."We feel once the emergency relief is settled, the local government can take the lead on local reconstruction."