May 27, 2006

Search for survivors as Indonesia quake toll tops 3,000

By Achmad Sukarsono

BANTUL, Indonesia, May 28, Indonesia - Rescue workers dug
desperately for survivors on Sunday as distraught residents
returned to ruined homes on Indonesia's densely populated
island of Java a day after a powerful earthquake killed more
than 3,000.

Medical supplies and hundreds of body bags began arriving
overnight at the airport of Yogyakarta city, about 25 km (16
miles) north of the Indian Ocean coast where Saturday's 6.2
magnitude dawn quake was centered just offshore.

In Bantul, which accounted for more than 2,000 of the
deaths reported so far and where most buildings had been
flattened, makeshift plastic tents dotted the roads outside
ruined houses as residents combed through the rubble.

"I'm just here to look for something that I can use," said
Ragil, standing beside the remains of his collapsed house.

Even so he was one of Bantul's luckier residents. None of
his family was trapped in their home.

Throughout the disaster-struck region, many bodies were
still buried under rubble as authorities struggled to bring in
aid and search-and-rescue teams.

Doctors and medical volunteers, overwhelmed by the number
of casualties, treated patients in the grounds of hospitals
because of fear that aftershocks would cause more buildings to

"My grandson died and I had to dig out land for his tomb
myself. I don't know where it was," said Cipto Atmodjo, seated
next to his son, who was lying on a cardboard box at a hospital
in the ancient royal city of Yogyakarta to the north of Bantul.

His son suffered broken legs but they had not been properly


Saturday's dawn quake struck while many were still in bed,
burying people in the rubble of their homes. It was the third
major tremor to devastate Indonesia in 18 months, the worst
being the quake on December 26, 2004 and its resulting tsunami
which left some 170,000 people dead or missing around Aceh.

Indonesia sits on the Asia-Pacific's so-called "Ring of
Fire," marked by heavy volcanic and tectonic activity.

Although Yogyakarta city's infrastructure had largely
returned to normal on Sunday morning, on the outskirts of the
city electricity supply and telephone lines were still down.

In Yogjakarta a military Hercules plane carrying emergency
supplies arrived at the airport, which has been closed for
commercial use after the terminal building collapsed.


The international community has rallied, offering medical
relief teams and emergency supplies. The United Nations, which
played a major humanitarian role in Indonesia's past natural
disasters including the tsunami, has sent aid to quake victims.

UNICEF, the U.N. Children's Fund, said it had sent staff to
the scene and was providing thousands of tents, tarpaulins and
lanterns, as well as equipment to ensure safe drinking water.

The official death toll stood at 3,002 on Sunday morning,
unchanged from late on Saturday, said the Social Affairs
Ministry's disaster task force. That number was expected to
rise as more bodies were uncovered and casualty reports

Yogyakarta stands near Mount Merapi, a volcano experts
believe may be about to erupt. One vulcanologist said the quake
had not been triggered by volcanic activity, but conversely
that activity had increased after the shock.

A prime tourist attraction, Yogyakarta is home to ancient
and protected heritage sites such as Borobudur, the biggest
Buddhist monument on Earth, which survived the quake.

But the Prambanan Hindu temple complex near the city
suffered some damage and local media reported that outer
sections of Yogyakarta's centuries-old royal palaces had also