Copyrighted material


to coverage on 2004 Indonesia tsunami

(IPS) -- "This is just ridiculous, the number of dead and injured are rising by the hour. We need more medicine and blood and also equipment for surgery," Budi Mulyono, medical doctor and director of the Dr Sardjito Hospital in central Java's ancient city, Yogyakarta, tells IPS.

"By the way things seem to be unfolding we have to stock emergency medical supplies for at least 15,000 people," he adds, looking visibly stressed.

A magnitude 6.2 temblor struck Yogyakarta, about 400 km east of the capital Jakarta, early Saturday. The death toll has already passed the 3,500 mark and fast rising as the horror began to reveal itself both within the country and internationally.

This is Indonesia's worst disaster since the Dec. 26 2004 Asian tsunami, killing at least 131,000 people in the northern Aceh province, when a magnitude 9.1 undersea earthquake triggered killer waves that also killed more than 100,000 in a dozen other countries around the Bay of Bengal.

"We're seeing many victims with serious head injuries and broken bones and we don't have enough beds for them. I really don't know how we're going to cope," says the exasperated Mulyono of Sardjito Hospital.

The epicenter of the quake seems to be Bantul about 30 km south of Yogyakarta. When the tremors started there were fears that a tsunami would be triggered, sending thousands fleeing for safety.

"I really don't know how many are trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings here in Bantul. But we're seeing many dead women and children," a hospital worker at Sarjito District Hospital tells IPS. "There are also many that have died, but their bodies haven't been brought to the hospital. So we can't determine the actual death figures," he adds.

Yogyakarta is near the Mount Merapi volcano, which threatened to erupt earlier this month, forcing thousands of people to be evacuated. The earthquake is not thought to be caused by the volcano, but there are reports of heightened activity in its vicinity.

Yogyakarta's royal palaces and the nearby Borobudur temple complex are prime attractions for domestic and foreign tourists. According to hotel workers, the ancient Buddhist complex -- a UNESCO heritage site -- is totally intact, with no signs of damage, although several structures nearby collapsed.

A tired and shaken Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, visiting the disaster-stricken areas, said the government ''would do everything possible to relieve the sufferings" of the earthquake victims.

''We will also optimize our efforts to find those still under the rubble and those who are still missing," he told reporters in Bantul. Yudhoyono also ordered the military to help evacuate victims.

Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari said medical teams had been sent to the hardest-hit areas where a shortage of doctors and medicines was reported.

Meanwhile, Malaysia said Saturday, it will send a search team and medical supplies to Indonesia.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said a 56-member team from Malaysia's disaster relief agency, five doctors and several paramedics will leave Saturday night for Yogyakarta on board an air force plane.

''The medical team will bring with them one ton of medicine and other essentials like blankets to be distributed to the victims," he was quoted as saying by the national news agency, 'Bernama.'

On the international relief front, the Britain-based children's charity Plan International says a large-scale aid operation is now in full swing.

In a statement issued by the agency, Plan worker Brook Weisman-Ross told how he sheltered in the bathroom as the quake hit. ''The earthquake was felt to be massive -- larger than the locals here say they've felt in their lives," said Weisman-Ross.

''I was shaken from my bed. As furniture was falling, concrete chunks started falling from my hotel room as people were running out in panic in their bedclothes."

Slabs of concrete fell from buildings while many smaller homes were reduced to rubble as their walls and roofs collapsed.

Plan is expecting greater numbers of displaced people at volcano evacuation centers and in other earthquake-impacted areas, and is mobilizing to procure plastic sheets for emergency shelters, blankets and ground mats.

Weisman-Ross is currently leading a team of 20 aid workers making an assessment of what help will be needed. "We still have some stock of blankets, ground mats and hygiene kits from volcano distributions, but not much."

In an interview with 'Sky News,' an aid worker with Medecins sans Frontieres said Indonesian hospitals have requested medical supplies, such as dressings. MSF has sent a team from Jakarta, carrying supplies, which hopes to reach the affected area by late Saturday.

MSF said access could be difficult as traffic jams have been reported.

While local services are quite well equipped according to MSF, the problem in such disasters is the arrival of so many people needing treatment at once, and the emotional pressure on medical staff.

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor   May 27, 2006   (

All Rights Reserved.

Contact for permission to use in any format.