June 2, 2006

Quake survivors shaken by more tremors

By Lewa Pardomuan

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of
people who survived Indonesia's killer earthquake ran out of
their makeshift tent homes as fresh tremors overnight spread
fear across the region.

Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency told Reuters
on Saturday that it had recorded several aftershocks of
magnitude 4, each lasting about 30 seconds.

A 6.3 magnitude quake struck Yogyakarta and Central Java
provinces last Saturday, killing over 6,200 people and
flattening over 100,000 houses. Many in the region are now
living in flimsy shelters in front of the piles of rubble that
used to be their homes.

"I was sleeping in the tent with my family when I felt the
tremor. I was so scared, I couldn't sleep anymore," Hayati told
Reuters after the latest tremors.

Suroto, a taxi driver in the ancient royal city of
Yogyakarta, about 440km (270 miles) from Jakarta, said the
region was gripped by fear that it will suffer another

"I was driving and my taxi shook like crazy. I saw people
running from their homes. My family is okay, but we still sleep
outside. There are so many rumours about more earthquakes and
the eruption of (nearby volcano Mount) Merapi," he said.

The government's official quake death toll remains at
6,234. The social ministry's disaster task force has also said
33,231 people had serious injuries and 12,917 people had minor

Muslim, Christian and Buddhist Javanese have been praying
and making offerings for mercy from future disasters, fearful
that Merapi is about to erupt.

A strong mystical vein runs through Javanese culture and
many people of the region, whatever their faith, cling to a
spiritual past.


On Friday the United Nations unveiled plans for a $103
million six month relief operation to provide aid like
emergency shelter, medical assistance, clean water, sanitation,
food and child protection across the quake-devastated region.

The World Health Organization has said the risk of
infectious disease remains high because of the crowded nature
of the quake-hit area, but the agency was not expecting an

British medical aid charity Merlin raised concerns that
some of the quake survivors could now be putting themselves as
risk of contracting the deadly bird flu virus. Bird flu has so
far killed about 36 Indonesians since late 2003.

Merlin said it had found more than 100 quake survivors
taking shelter in six large poultry sheds.

"It's tragic that people who have lost their homes have no
option but to take shelter in places where they could catch a
deadly virus," British nurse Paula Sansom, who is leading
Merlin's emergency response team, said in a statement.

"In such over-crowded conditions, the risk of contamination
with avian flu and salmonella will increase."

A Yogyakarta newspaper reported on Saturday that 650 people
in several villages in quake-affected area had been hit by food
poisoning. It said also that two men, aged 24 and 28, had
committed suicide in despair after the disaster.

But amidst the grief and devastation, there have also been
reports of several babies being born.

Sultan Hamengkubuwono X of Yogyakarta, a descendant of the
island's royal family, said he shared the misery of his people.

"We have to accept this fate. This is our trial," he told
reporters. "What is important is we have to be ready to face
the future. The government will do our best to help."

(Additional reporting by Michael Perry and Diyan Jari)