July 20, 2006

Indonesia president to visit tsunami-stricken town

By Ed Davies

PANGANDARAN, Indonesia (Reuters) - Indonesian President
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was set on Friday to visit this beach
town, hardest hit by the deadly south Java coast tsunami, as it
struggles to return to normalcy.

Tens of thousands displaced by the disaster, which killed
at least 592 people along a 300-km (185-mile) stretch of coast,
remained housed in temporary shelters.

But there were signs of normal life in the town.

Pedal-powered tri-shaws cruised the streets looking for
customers. Most shops, shuttered in the days after the disaster
smashed houses and fishing boats along the beach, had

West Java provincial Governor Danny Setiawan pointed to the
open stores and told reporters things were returning to normal.

"Everything is getting better. The road at the beach is
clear," he said.

But many displaced persons remain in hills behind the town,
too frightened of another tsunami or aftershocks from the 7.7
magnitude quake that triggered it to go back to the coast.
Setiawan urged them to return home.

"There is very little possibility of another tsunami. They
should return to their homes, but they should be alert."

In a tent near the mosque, however, displaced person
Poniyem Daryanto, wearing a yellow Muslim headscarf, said she
had other problems.

"I don't have anything, only 5,000 rupiah ($0.55) in my
wallet," she said, sobbing, as she sat with family members
eating rice.

"The government should give us money to buy houses and a
boat," Daryanto, who said she did not know her age but thought
it was about 60, told Reuters when asked what she hoped the
president's visit might achieve.

Yudhoyono may also face complaints about the lack of
warnings of the tsunami. Various glitches kept any word from
going out except to government officials, and then too late for
them to pass it on to the public actually facing the danger.

Officials and aid workers have said the displaced, who
number about 45,000, were generally getting adequate care, but
some of them have complained of cramped conditions and needs
ranging from underwear to more tents.

The aid network in Indonesia, a vast nation of 220 million,
has been stretched thin by disasters in the past two years.

Work is still going on at the site of the Yogyakarta
earthquake in May which killed 5,000 people, and reconstruction
efforts continue in Aceh province which bore the brunt of the
2004 tsunami that killed 230,000 around the Indian Ocean.

The nation is also struggling to contain one of the world's
worst outbreaks of bird flu.

Aftershocks from Monday's quake and rumors of more to come
have kept people across the vast archipelago on edge.

Buildings in Jakarta and elsewhere in western Java swayed
from an aftershock on Wednesday night, and on Friday morning
rumors were being spread by teletext in the capital of another
quake to come in the evening.

They were being taken seriously enough that some people
were changing plans to avoid areas the messages said would be
most affected.

Indonesia's 17,000 islands sprawl along a belt of volcanic
and seismic activity, part of what is called the Pacific "Ring
of Fire."

(Additional reporting by Diyan Jari and Jerry Norton in