Health officials fear disease in quake-hit Indonesia

Public health officials fear the outbreak of disease in Indonesia’s quake-hit West Sumatra Province.

Six days after the earthquake devastated Sumatra, search and rescue efforts have been shelved in major cities.

euronews channel-Attention has now turned to survivors. In the port city of Padang hundreds of volunteers sprayed buildings with disinfectant in an attempt to ward off any deadly germs.

Clean drinking water is of paramount importance.

Patrick Fuller from the Red Cross said: “If people don’t have clean water and they are drinking dirty water, then, yes, there are health problems with that. So things are slowly normalising, electricity is coming back but our concern is still getting to people in villages, in the rural areas, who have not yet been reached.”

Aid is now pouring into the area, but the scale of the disaster, heavy rains and shattered infrastructure mean that help is slow in reaching those who need it, sparking anger among the locals.

People are looking for ways of helping themselves like begging.

“We will use the money to buy fuel for the generator and chillies for our cooking,” said one boy.

The number of victims stands at 625 dead and 295 missing but Indonesia’s health minister has warned it may rise to as high as 3,000.

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Hopes dim for chances of survivors in quake-hit Sumatra


Rescue teams combing through the rubble of Wednesday’s earthquake in the Indonesian island of Sumatra were having little success finding survivors Sunday as they pushed into remote areas.

REUTERS,FRANCE 24 – Rescue teams in the Indonesian city of Padang combed through rubble on Sunday in a desperate bid to find more survivors of a devastating earthquake four days ago, but were retrieving only bodies.

Rescuers have also pushed deeper into earthquake-hit Sumatra, finding entire villages obliterated by landslides and homeless survivors desperate for food, water and shelter.

In Padang, a university town of 900,000, rescuers were still picking through collapsed buildings to look for perhaps thousands of people still buried, but said that the prospect of finding more people alive was low.
The huge damage to buildings and roads from Wednesday’s 7.6 magnitude quake was hampering the aid effort.

In remoter areas, the scale of the disaster was becoming clear, with entire villages wiped out. The Indonesian Red Cross
said on Sunday 800 people were missing and presumed buried in landslides in Padang Pariaman, a district of about 340,000 people.

“I am the only one left,” said Zulfahmi, 39. “My child, my wife, my mother-in-law, they are all gone. They are under the earth now.”

He was being visited by 36 family members when the quake triggered a landslide in his village of Kapalo Koto near Pariaman, about 40 km (25 miles) north of Padang.

Indonesia’s disaster management agency put the toll of confirmed dead and missing at 946, and the United Nations said more than 1,000 had been killed in and around Padang.

Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari has said the death toll would rise to the low thousands but probably remain below
4,000.
In another rural area, a resident said it was too late for aid.

“Don’t bother trying to bring aid up there,” said Afiwardi, who pointed past a landslide that cut off a road. “Everyone is
dead.”


DIGGING WITH HOES

Some villagers were using simple wooden hoes in what appeared to be futile attempts to reach bodies under the earth.

The mayor of the district of Padang Pariaman, Muslim Kasim, said heavy digging machinery was starting to reach some areas, but that survivors desperately needed tents and blankets.

“We are devastated. Eighty percent of houses have caved in, roads are split and cracked,” he said by telephone, adding that one of the landslides had hit a wedding party.

Days after the earthquake, many areas had seen no aid.

“We have not received a thing. We need food, clothes, blankets, milk,” said Siti Armaini outside her collapsed home
in Pariaman. “It seems like the government has forgotten about us.”

Asked about the rescue efforts in Pariaman, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said bluntly it was now about retrieving bodies.
“We can be sure that they are dead. So now we are waiting for burials,” he said in footage shown on Metro TV.

Later he said that Indonesia most needed foreign help in the form of funds and reconstruction now, rather than rescuers.
In Padang, hopes were fading of finding survivors in the ruins of the Dutch-colonial era Ambacang Hotel, a landmark in a

town famous across Indonesia for its spicy cuisine and dramatic curved roofs.

A person believed to be trapped in the building, where an insurance company was holding a seminar, sent a phone text
message on Friday to a relative saying that eight people were still alive in the ruins.

Rescuers including a Swiss team and sniffer dogs from Japan were cutting through layers of concrete, but by late on

Saturday afternoon had managed to retrieve only one more body.

A British search and rescue worker in Padang said on Sunday that their work would soon wind down.
“We are doing final checks before we can declare the rescue phase is over. We think it’s the end of the rescue phase.

There’s very little chance of finding people alive,” said Peter Old of Rapid UK. “It’s the beginning of a ramping down in
rescue work.”

Up to 4,000 still trapped under quake rubble, says UN

AFP – Whole villages in Indonesia’s quake zone were found obliterated by landslides Saturday, while rescuers searched desperately for up to 4,000 people believed to be still trapped in rubble.

The full extent of the damage from Wednesday’s 7.6-magnitude earthquake emerged as attention turned to the hundreds of villages in the hills outside Padang, a devastated city of one million at the centre of rescue efforts.

AFP journalists travelling from the coastal city on Sumatra island to the surrounding mountains encountered dozens of crumbled houses on the steep roads, and then four villages buried entirely by landslides.

Search and rescue officers from the local government said that up to 400 people could have perished in the four hillside villages alone, including a wedding party of 30 that was preparing for a ceremony nearby.

“The difficulty in this rescue operation is that the houses are buried under the soil as much as four metres (13 feet) deep,” the officer named Topan told AFP. “So far we have been using our hands to dig.”

One body was seen lying in a stream nearby, but Topan said he expected to find many more. The 100-strong rescue team was unable to bring in heavy machinery because of the broken, narrow roads.

Bob McKerrow, head of the Indonesia delegation of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Society, said aerial photos showed the extent of the damage in the mountainous outlying regions.

He said hundreds of villages were in the disaster zone, and that the few he had visited had all reported deaths and serious injuries.

“Typically in every village, there’s an old woman with a broken back, with a gash on her arm and she’s not moving. That’s why we’re sending in helicopters with medical teams,” he told AFP.

In Padang, where hardly a single building has been left undamaged, rescuers were racing against time to haul any survivors from schools, hotels and homes that have been reduced to tangles of concrete and rubble.

Specialist teams from Australia, Britain, Estonia, Japan, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, the United States and the United Arab Emirates have arrived or are travelling to the scene to help overwhelmed and exhausted local teams.

Hope was raised for survivors on Saturday when police said they had received an SMS text message from inside the ruined Dutch colonial-era Ambacang hotel, which has become a focal point for operations, drawing a crowd of hundreds.

“I think there could still be survivors,” said Yoshiaki Shimazu, the leader of a specialist team from Japan with rescue dogs at the scene. “The way the building fell, there could be voids.”

David Lange, a doctor for the SurfAid medical organisation, was inside the the building as it caved in and he sent colleagues a dramatic description of his escape that was passed on to AFP.

After escaping the building, he came to the aid of a woman in labour who was stuck in chaotic traffic on Saturday, and delivered her baby on the front seat of the vehicle.

“I just can’t believe I’m alive. The people right behind me didn’t make it out. The blocks from the hotel were falling all around me,” he wrote in his email, adding that many westerners remained inside.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Indonesia El-Mostafa Benlamlih said between 3,000 and 4,000 people were trapped or buried in the rubble left by the quake.

Increasingly, the main task for emergency teams has been to pull bodies from the debris, many of which are beginning to decompose in the blazing sun.

The United Nations last estimated the death toll at 1,100 people while the government toll, which has not been revised since Thursday, stands at around 770.

“I think the death toll is going to rise dramatically. The current figure is going to be very low from listening to people working at the scene. There will certainly be more than 2,000,” McKerrow told AFP.

One lucky survivor was 20-year-old Ratna Kurnia Sari, who was pulled limp and covered in dust from the ruins of a college on Friday after spending 48 hours buried beneath rubble.

“I was telling myself ‘I must survive. I’ve got to see my 14-month-old boy grow up. I want to see him get big and become a good person,'” she told AFP from hospital.

The quake struck off Sumatra’s west coast northwest of Padang on Wednesday on a major faultline on the volatile “Ring of Fire” that scientists have long warned was a disaster waiting to happen.

Indonesia appeals for aid as quake toll tops 1,000

Indonesia appealed for foreign aid Friday as the stench of decomposing bodies hung over wrecked buildings where overwhelmed rescuers were searching for survivors.

In the city of Padang, which was devastated by Wednesday’s 7.6-magnitude quake, ill-equipped emergency teams worked around the clock to pull bodies from ruins that have claimed the lives of at least 1,100 people.

In the villages outside the capital of West Sumatra, survivors who have spent two nights sleeping out in the open said they were hungry and frightened, and still waiting for the first signs of government assistance.

FRANCE 24

“Our main problem is that there are a lot of victims still trapped in the rubble. We are struggling to pull them out,” Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari told reporters.

“We need help from foreign countries for evacuation efforts. We need them to provide skilled rescuers with equipment,” she said, also appealing for medics to treat badly injured victims, many with broken bones.

Several countries have already pledged aid, but efforts to organise a full-scale rescue operation are being hampered by blocked roads, broken power lines, and patchy communication networks.

“We don’t have proper equipment. We don’t even have dogs,” said Suryadi Soedarmo, a surgeon from an emergency ambulance service in the capital Jakarta who arrived with 10 experts trained to enter collapsed structures.

“The command and control is also bad. It will jeopardise our rescue efforts,” he told AFP.

As rescuers laboured in the tropical heat, the chances of recovering survivors from the wreckage is fading fast.

“Looking at the situation, the chance of pulling people alive from the rubble is very slim,” Indonesian Red Crescent secretary general Djazuli Ambari told AFP.

Lying trapped for a third day under a mountain of rubble that was once her school, time was running out for Ratna Kurnia Sari.

As her helpless brother looked on, rescuers battled to reach the 20-year-old who had been given water and biscuits to sustain her during her long ordeal.

“She is still alive, rescuers have communicated with her but we fear that the rescue process is taking so long that she might lose her life,” her brother Indra Vijaya told AFP.

“The evacuation process is slow. There was no equipment on the first day of the quake, only the second day the excavator arrived and on the third day my sister is still buried under the rubble,” he said.

The United Nations said in New York on Thursday that 1,100 have died in the disaster. The government puts the death toll at 777, but said that figure would be revised upwards.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has sought to cast himself as in control of the disaster. His government was criticised for its response to the 2004 tsunami which killed 168,000 in Aceh province.

Planes laden with aid have started arriving, a slew of international organisations are on the ground and foreign governments including Japan, Switzerland and Germany have sent specialist rescue workers and cash.

But many in the villages outside Padang, amidst scenic mist-shrouded hills, said they had not yet received any help.

“We’re living in fear of another bigger quake. We’re angry that no aid has come. We’re hungry and we’re traumatised,” Ernalis, a 40-year-old resident of Parak Buruk on the edge of Padang told AFP.

US President Barack Obama said he was “deeply moved” by the loss of life and suffering as Washington announced 300,000 dollars in immediate aid and set aside another three million to help quake victims.

“I know that the Indonesian people are strong and resilient and have the heart to overcome this challenge,” said Obama, who spent part of his childhood living in Jakarta.

The quake struck off Sumatra’s west coast northwest of Padang, on a major faultline on the volatile “Ring of Fire” that scientists have long warned was a disaster waiting to happen.

A massive 9.1-magnitude quake off Aceh in northern Sumatra triggered the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 220,000.

Death toll mounts after Indonesia earthquake

The rescue effort continues in Indonesia to find more survivors of yesterday’s powerful earthquake.

So far at least 57 people are confirmed dead but with more corpses being pulled from collapsed buildings, that figure could rise considerably.

Some remote areas remain inaccessible and out of contact.

Indonesia’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has visited the village of Cikangkareng, where the earthquake caused a landslide under which up to 30 people are thought to remain trapped.

Across the disaster zone an estimated 24,000 buildings have been damaged, up to half of them seriously.

The Red Cross has handed out tents, blankets and clean water but more help is needed.

The epicentre of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake was located just off the south coast of West Java. Tremors shook buildings in the country’s capital, Jakarta, 200 kilometers further north.

After more than 24 hours, the chances of finding any of the dozens of people still missing alive are becoming slimmer.

Dozens die in Indonesia earthquake

A powerful earthquake in Indonesia has left at least 32 people dead and forced thousands more to leave their homes.

The magnitude seven quake struck on the country’s main island, Java, and the epicentre was a few hundred kilometres from the capital, Jakarta, where dozens of people were injured.

One hotel worker in Jakarta said: “I was checking some stuff in the office when I felt the tremor. I left the building immediately. It’s very rare but I knew it was an earthquake.”

“Everything started swaying then we all rushed out of the office,” said a bank employee.

Towns to the south of Jakarta nearer the epicentre suffered more extensive damage.

In the town of Tasikmalaya one eyewitness said only wooden houses remain standing.

The country’s disaster management agency said the provisional death toll of 32 could rise much higher, as communication with coastal areas has been totally cut off.

A tsunami alert issued just after the quake was later withdrawn.