Aid groups de­scend on quake zone; 102 dead

Thou­sands of peo­ple are home­less or afraid to re­turn to their homes

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By AGEN­CIES in Meureudu, In­done­sia

Hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tions de­scended on In­done­sia’s Aceh prov­ince on Thurs­day as the govern­ment in Jakarta promised tons of emer­gency aid and of­fi­cials raced to as­sess the full ex­tent of dam­age from an earth­quake that killed more than 100 peo­ple.

Search ef­forts in­volv­ing vol­un­teers and nearly 1,500 res­cue per­son­nel were con­cen­trated on the hard-hit town of Meureudu in Pi­die Jaya district near the epi­cen­ter of the mag­ni­tude-6.5 quake that hit be­fore dawn on Wed­nes­day. Hu­man­i­tar­ian assess­ment teams were fan­ning out to other ar­eas of the district.

Na­tional Dis­as­ter Mit­iga- tion Agency spokesman Su­topo Purwo Nu­groho said the death toll had risen to 102 and warned it could in­crease. Search teams were us­ing de­vices that de­tect mo­bile phone sig­nals with a 100-meter ra­dius to help guide their ef­forts as they scoured the rub­ble, he said. Aceh’s dis­as­ter mit­i­ga­tion agency said more than 750 peo­ple were in­jured.

Those killed in­cluded very young chil­dren and the el­derly. Mo­ham­mad Ja­far, 60, said his daugh­ter, grand­daugh­ter and grand­son died in the quake but he was re­signed to it as “God’s will”.

He was get­ting ready for morn­ing prayers when the earth­quake hit. He said he and his wife man­aged to push their way out through the de­bris.

Thou­sands of peo­ple are home­less or afraid to re­turn to their homes. Of­fi­cials in Aceh said more than 8,000 peo­ple spent Wed­nes­day night in shel­ters in Pi­die Jaya district alone.

Ter­ri­fy­ing mem­ory

Killer quakes oc­cur reg­u­larly in the re­gion, where many live with the ter­ri­fy­ing mem­ory of a gi­ant Dec 26, 2004, earth­quake that struck off Su­ma­tra. The mag­ni­tude-9.1 quake trig­gered a dev­as­tat­ing tsunami that killed more than 100,000 Acehnese.

The In­done­sian govern­ment said its ur­gent aid would be flown out of Jakarta on Thurs­day af­ter­noon and will in­clude 10 gen­er­a­tors, tents, fold­ing beds, baby sup­plies and body bags.

It will take at least two more days be­fore there’s a fuller pic­ture of how many peo­ple are dis­placed and the re­lief ef­fort re­quired, he said.

In­done­sia is prone to earth­quakes due to its lo­ca­tion on the Pa­cific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of vol­ca­noes and fault lines in the Pa­cific Basin. The 2004 quake and tsunami killed a to­tal of 230,000 peo­ple in a dozen coun­tries.

Scores of res­cuers crawled over a mar­ket in Meureudu, the hard-hit town, where many shop houses col­lapsed.

One shop owner, Hajj Yusri Ab­dul­lah, didn’t hold out much hope of find­ing sur­vivors. He said nearly two dozen bod­ies were pulled from the mar­ket de­bris the day be­fore. They in­cluded a group of eight made up of a new­ly­wed cou­ple and fam­ily mem­bers hold­ing an or­nate cel­e­bra­tion known as An­tar Dara Baro.

AL­BERT DAMANIK / BARCROFT IM­AGES

Res­cuers in­spect the dam­age af­ter an earth­quake struck Pi­die Jaya on Fri­day in Aceh, In­done­sia. The strong tremor killed 102 peo­ple.

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