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Hospitals overwhelmed in Indonesian quake zone

Injured victims shelter from a rainfall under a pieces of plastic outside of a hospital in Bantul, Yogyakarta province of Central Java, 28 May 2006, a day after a powerful earthquake shattered the region. An evening downpour had added more sufferings to the earthquake victims. The Indonesian government revised down the death toll from the massive earthquake on Java island to 3,875, attributing the mix-up to a miscount by local authorities. AFP PHOTO/Jewel SAMAD
by Bhimanto Suwastoyo
Yogyakarta, Indonesia (AFP) May 28, 2006
Hundreds of traumatised patients are crammed into every available space at the Panti Rapih Catholic hospital, and the parking lot has become a giant open-air waiting room.

Widiarti, 26, waited alone on a narrow stretcher laid in front of the radiology room, her badly bruised face and arms peeking out from under the dirty cloth used to cover her.

Sastroutomo, an elderly woman, lay on a mat on the floor. She could not speak as her face was swollen and her mouth black with dried blood. A card next to her head read, "Radiology needed".

One nurse said staff at the hospital in the central Indonesian city of Yogyakarta were struggling even to register the hundreds of patients in need of help after Saturday's earthquake which killed over 3,300 people.

"We only take the details of each patient and immediately forward them to the concerned wards," she said.

Hospitals in the densely-populated city have been overwhelmed by the thousands of people streaming in for treatment.

At the Panti Rapih hospital a steady stream of ambulances arrived through the night and emergency workers unloaded bloodied patients on stretchers.

Six-year-old Tiara Fadillah lay sleeping on a bed, her hip likely broken when she was hit by rubble as her home collapsed around her.

"Because she had protected her younger sister, she was the one hit by the wall," said Tiara's distraught father, 29-year-old Budi Utomo.

"I took my child (to hospital) using a neighbour's car, but she was only treated about four hours later. But we understand, because there are so many people at the hospital," he said.

In the morgue, one list displayed on a makeshift bulletin board showed 50 dead. Bodies covered in white sheets were lined up on three rows of benches.

Heru Nugroho, a spokesman for the state-run Sardjito hospital in Yogyakarta, told AFP that 1,500 victims were being treated there, many of them in the crowded hallways.

"We need volunteers to help," he said.

Officials at both the Indonesian Red Cross and the European Union's humanitarian aid service ECHO made urgent appeals for surgical teams, medication and blood to be rushed to the quake-hit area, east of Jakarta.

At the Muhammadiyah hospital, hundreds of injured patients were being treated outside, many on pavements.

Back at the Panti Rapih hospital, 71-year-old Harto Prayitno waited on a bed on a packed veranda with his two sons.

"I was still sleeping in my room when the walls and ceilings collapsed on me," he explained.

Although he had been taken to hospital shortly after the quake hit in the early hours of Saturday, he only received the most basic of care -- two splints around his right calf and some bandaging -- at about noon.

"Nothing has happened since. And I still don't know whether my bone is broken," he said.

A nurse tenderly cleaned the blood from the hand of a young woman, her face covered with a jacket, as a relative held her down on the stretcher laid in a busy hospital hallway.

"We have been working non-stop and, as you can see, there is still a lot to do," he said briefly.

Tafsiah, 52, sat dejectedly on a mat in the open just near the emergency ward's entrance, the left side of her face badly swollen and a bandage wrapped around her right ankle.

"My neighbours bought me here, but they had to leave me to take care of their own family," said the Yogyakarta fruit seller, who was hit by a wooden beam as she tried to crawl out of her home to safety.

"I am waiting for a neighbour to take me home. He had promised to take me home but I have been waiting here for hours."

Related Links

Indonesia quake teams using tsunami experience, says UN chief
Washington (AFP) May 28, 2006
International rescue teams helping victims of the Indonesia earthquake, which has killed over 4,600 people, gained valuable experience in the operation after the 2004 tsunami disaster, UN aid coordinator Jan Egeland said Sunday.

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