Relief Flows Into Indonesia Quake Area As Death Toll Revised Down
Jakarta (AFP) Mar 11, 2007
Aid from local and international relief agencies reached victims of the deadly earthquake on Indonesia's Sumatra as authorities Sunday revised the death toll down from 73 to 66. "There has been many correction sent from the region, as dead victims from one district may have been sent to another for autopsy, and they were counted twice," said Suryadi from the West Sumatra Disaster Relief Unit.
A total of 688 people were still treated in hospital for injuries, 571 of them suffering from serious injuries.
A joint project by Mercy Corps, Save the Children and Care distributed tents and tool kits to refugees.
Asril, the head of the Kubung subdistrict, said: "What we lack are blankets, as the evenings here can be quite cold, and milk for infants of over six months."
Indonesia, an archipelago of some 17,000 islands, sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where continental plates meet -- and where earthquakes are a regular and often deadly occurrence.
The devastating Asian tsunami in 2004 was set off by a massive earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, killing some 168,000 people in Aceh province on its northern tip.
earlier related report
The 6.3-magnitude quake, which killed at least 52 people early Tuesday and left thousands homeless, has once again placed an uncomfortable spotlight on the government's relief efforts.
Some of the displaced have received tents and basic supplies, but the speed of the response came under fire.
"From the government? We have received just one tent, a quarter of a rice sack and one box of instant noodles," said Sawal, who heads a relief centre in Solok, a district hard hit by the quake.
Edi Marsal, a relief organiser in Kapuah, most of whose 3,000 people lost their homes in the quake, said private organisations had provided a speedier response.
"Private groups, including local non-governmental organisations and firms, were much quicker to help although the level of assistance has still been very insufficient," he said.
They mainly provided food and water, he added, but "we urgently lack tents and medicine," pointing to hundreds of people sheltering under flimsy plastic sheets.
Survivors also hit out at the government response.
"Nothing, nothing, nothing," said Ridah, a woman from the village of Tanah Garam, when asked if she had received aid from the government.
She was sheltering under a plastic blue sheet strung between trees near the crumbling walls of what was once her home.
"We are not rich, but we pay taxes. Where is the government when we need it?" asked a woman sitting nearby, an infant asleep in her lap.
"We have been surviving on the charity of our families," chimed in Erleni, one of the few homeless people to be living in a tent.
A mother from the village of Katuh, whose home was destroyed by the quake, said she was worried about water supplies. "We have no clean water to wash our clothes or ourselves," said Yessy at a camp for the homeless.
Officials in Solok declined to comment on the criticism.
Some firms and political parties, in contrast, have swiftly erected relief posts bearing their names and logos.
In the village of Sumani, a truck was seen delivering a load of biscuits, instant noodles and mineral water. The name of the telecoms firm behind the delivery covered one whole side of the vehicle.
Similar trucks, with different sponsors, plied the main road between Solok and Sumani. Many displaced people camped alongside, some slowing down passing vehicles to beg for help.
International bodies were expected to step up efforts to help the quake's victims, with a team of specialists scheduled to arrive in Sumatra from other parts of Indonesia this week.
There had also been criticism of government relief operations in May last year after a powerful earthquake on the main island of Java killed thousands and left as many as 200,000 homeless.
In December, mothers carrying children looted an aid centre after the slow pace of food distribution sparked anger after flash floods on Sumatra forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.
Indonesia has been hit by a string of natural disasters in recent years.
The devastating December 2004 Asian tsunami, triggered by a massive quake off the coast of Sumatra, killed some 168,000 people in Aceh province on its northern tip.
Indonesia, an archipelago of around 17,000 islands, sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where continental plates meet -- and where earthquakes are a regular and often deadly occurrence.
Source: Agence France-Presse
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Lhasa, China (AFP) Mar 11, 2007
Eight months after its historic opening the railway to Tibet has already brought economic benefits to the remote region, but detractors continue to see the new line as a tool for Chinese colonisation. "I have returned home," said Wang Ping, a few days after stepping off the the train as it arrived in Lhasa.
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