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Aid flies in for Indonesia quake victims

by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) May 29, 2006
Countries across the world Monday despatched aid for tens of thousands of earthquake victims in Indonesia as the United Nations issued an urgent call for field hospitals, medical supplies and tents.

In Geneva, United Nations and Red Cross agencies met to try to coordinate the huge mobilisation which has drawn contributions from Beijing to Washington, London to Sydney.

Food, medical supplies and makeshift shelters, along with doctors, nurses and technical experts, were pouring toward the stricken region on Indonesia's main island of Java.

But as survivors braced for a third night in the open in pelting rain and the injured spilled out of overcrowded hospitals, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for better coordination.

"We have to improve coordination, both between the government and the regions, from one region and another, and coordination with foreign parties and non-governmental organisations," he told a news conference in Yogyakarta, the main city in the disaster zone.

More than 5,100 people were killed, many thousands more injured and as many as 200,000 left homeless when the 6.3-magnitude quake struck Saturday.

Up to 25,000 houses were reported damaged and 4,000 of them were completely destroyed, the UN humanitarian coordination office (OCHA) said in a statement. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) estimated that 100,000 people may be homeless.

Volunteers and foreign rescue teams started distributing emergency rations, clean drinking water, tents and hygiene kits and the UN set up a coordination centre at Yogyakarta airport to organise the flow of help.

"Our priorities are very much in health, hygiene and water," UNICEF spokesman John Budd told AFP.

Elisabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for OCHA, which coordinated the Geneva meeting, said the Red Cross was ready to deliver 10,000 tents, but that more would be needed.

"The most urgent needs to be delivered within three days are three field hospitals, with a capacity of 100 beds each, medical supplies mostly for orthopaedic treatment, generators, tents and shelter items," she told AFP.

International agencies have maintained a heavy presence in Indonesia since the December 2004 quake and tsunami left 168,000 dead in Aceh province. That relief effort was sharply criticised after inappropriate supplies were flown in and bottlenecks hampered delivery.

The UN's World Food Programme has begun distributing emergency food rations in the worst-hit districts, enough to feed 20,000 people for seven days, while the International Organization for Migration is handing out 35 tonnes of food, water and medicines.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies appealed for 9.79 million dollars (7.68 million euros).

Five aid flights arrived at Yogyakarta airport late Sunday and more were en route Monday.

Britain pledged aid worth four million pounds (7.4 million dollars, 5.8 million euros), according to a statement on the website of its government's Department for International Development.

Among other aid promises so far have been five million dollars plus food, medical aid and tents from Saudi Arabia, four million each from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, 3.8 million from the European Union, 2.5 million from the United States and two million from China.

Australia also sent medical teams and supplies. Prime Minister John Howard promised additional aid on top of an initial three million US dollar donation to the International Red Cross.

France despatched doctors and technical experts Sunday and said it was ready to send an emergency hospital and more specialists Monday.

Japan, which has already sent two medical teams and donated some 10 million dollars as well as emergency supplies including tents, generators, blankets and water purifiers, agreed to deploy its military to help.

The United Arab Emirates sent a 39-strong rescue team, while Pakistan sent tents, blankets, food and medicines.

Croatia's government said it had allocated 140,000 euros (180,000 dollars) to help the earthquake victims, and Bulgaria said it would donate 160,000 euros.


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Geneva (AFP) May 29, 2006
UN agencies, anxious to show their efficiency after criticism of the 2004 tsunami aid operation, called Monday for field hospitals, medicines and tents to be rushed to Indonesia's earthquake victims within three days.

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