Fri, Jul 21, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Disasters a show of heavenly anger at Yudhoyono: survey

AP AND AFP , JAKARTA AND PANGANDARAN, INDONESIA

The stream of disasters to hit Indonesia since 2004 is hurting the president's popularity, with many seeing the calamities as a sign mystical powers are angry with him, according to an opinion poll released yesterday.

"The public are beginning to interpret the disasters in a mystical, irrational and spiritual way," said Denny, the director of the respected Indonesian Survey Institute.

"This belief is slowly beginning to be taken up by the majority, and will hurt Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's re-election chances in 2009," he said in a statement.

The poll surveyed 400 randomly chosen people in areas of Java island hit by the May 27th earthquake in the weeks following the disaster. It had a margin of error of around 4.8 percent, the institute said.

Since Yudhoyono took office in 2004, Indonesia has been hit by three tsunami -- including the Asian 2004 killer wave -- two earthquakes, a major volcanic eruption, dozens of floods and landslides, as well as a jetliner crash and several boat sinkings.

The poll showed that 78 percent of people thought the disasters were nature's warning to Indonesia as whole, while 52.5 percent saw them as a "warning or a sign of nature's anger at the leader or the government of Indonesia."

Meanwhile, aid efforts for tsunami survivors intensified yesterday, a day after another tsunami alert triggered panic in Java.

Search and rescue helicopters hovered along the battered coast of a small resort town, "which bore the brunt of the fury unleashed by Monday afternoon's tsunami along a 200km stretch of Java's south coast.

Nerves remain frayed after panicked residents rushed to higher ground on Wednesday, when rumors swirled of another impending wall of water.

Separately, residents on Java's west coast and Sumatra's south coast were told to be on alert Wednesday evening after a 6.2 magnitude quake struck under the Sunda Strait between the two islands.

While experts later said the quake had posed no threat, about two hours after it struck, water surged at Anyer beach on Java's southwest coast and entered a housing area, prompting people to flee to high ground, Koran Tempo newspaper reported.

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