Tue, May 30, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Indonesia earthquake: Aid begins to arrive in earthquake zone

RELIEFAid planes from the UN began touching down in Java with water, tents, stoves and other supplies to help an estimated 200,000 left homeless by the disaster

AP AND AFP , BANTUL AND JAKARTA, INDONESIA

A man injured in Saturday's earthquake carries his baby at a hospital in Bantul, Indonesia, yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Emergency aid began arriving yesterday in areas devastated by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake in Indonesia, but officials said supplies were not being delivered fast enough to victims who begged for help on roads lined with crumpled buildings.

An aid plane chartered by the UN's children agency arrived in the city of Solo, about three hours from the hardest-hit district of Bantul on Java island. It was loaded with water, tents, stoves and cooking sets that officials said would be distributed later yesterday.

On Sunday, three UN trucks brought high-energy biscuits to survivors and two Singapore military cargo planes arrived at Yogyakarta airport with doctors and medical supplies.

But officials said relief supplies remained inadequate.

"We have received food and medicine from the government but it's not enough," said Suparno, a neighborhood official in Bantul who goes by one name, like many Indonesians. "How can I distribute 40kg of rice to 1,200 people?"

Hundreds of villagers lined main roads in the disaster zone, holding out donation boxes. They explained that any money collected would be used communally to buy rice, oil and candles.

"We need help. Anything at all," one sign read.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono acknowledged a "lack of coordination" in aid distribution when he visited refugees yesterday and called for government officials to be "more agile."

"I saw in many areas that there are many things that need to be speeded up," he said.

Yudhoyono -- criticized by some as being hesitant to act in the past -- spent the first night after Saturday's quake sleeping in a tent along with survivors and moved his office to the nearby city of Yogyakarta to supervise relief operations.

The social affairs ministry said yesterday that the death toll from Saturday's earthquake had risen to at least 5,136.

The majority of those killed in the quake -- 3,082 people -- lived in Bantul district, south of the city of Yogyakarta, according to the latest figures issued by the ministry via fax.

More than 1,660 others died in Klaten district, in Central Java province, the ministry said.

The quake left an estimated 200,000 people homeless, most of whom are now living in shacks close to their former homes or in shelters erected in rice fields. Hospitals overflowed with bloodied survivors.

The area affected by the quake stretches across hundreds of square kilometers of mostly farming communities to the south of the ancient city of Yogyakarta.

Countries across Asia and the world have pledged millions of dollars, tonnes of supplies and hundreds of personnel -- and Indonesia said late on Sunday it would allocate US$107 million to help rebuild over the next year.

The US military plans to send 100 doctors, nurses and medical technicians from a base in Okinawa to Indonesia.

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