June 3, 2006

Tremors, Bird Flu Threat, Scare Java Quake Victims

By Michael Perry

BANTUL, Indonesia -- Aftershocks rattled Indonesia's quake-ravaged region overnight, spreading panic among thousands of homeless survivors, as aid groups rushed to deliver clean water and warned of an increased threat of bird flu.

Several aftershocks, which Indonesia's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said registered about magnitude 4, shook the region overnight, sending many survivors running from their makeshift tents.

"Last night and this morning I felt some quakes. I was sleeping. I just ran away, out of the tent," said 40-year-old Hardady, who lives in the village of Kerten, which was badly hit by the quake.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday that the magnitude 6.3 quake, which flattened villages in Yogyakarta and Central Java provinces at dawn a week ago and killed over 6,200, had forced some survivors to seek shelter in poultry sheds.

"Is there an increased threat and danger? Yes, it's something we have to be very watchful of," a WHO spokeswoman told Reuters. "In Indonesia there's been a high record of human cases and we have to look out for avian flu."

Poultry across Indonesia have died from bird flu, but the 36 human deaths reported since the disease emerged in the country in late 2003. No human deaths have been recorded in the quake zone.

WHO is also concerned about the spread of diarrhea, cholera and viral hepatitis, but said there were no reports of outbreaks.

Aid groups are distributing 65,000 jerry cans with water purification kits in the two provinces, which can provide a family of five with clean water for a month.

"Dirty water is causing skin infections, especially in young children," Korean doctor Hong Kwong Moon said in the village of Kerten. "There are also some cases of diarrhea here. The water is contaminated, people are washing with it and it infects skin."


The United Nations has 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.

Last week's quake reduced more than 100,000 homes to rubble and many in the region are now living in flimsy shelters in front of what used to be their homes.

In the small village of Tangkil in the hills high above Yogyakarta, 440 km east of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, 36-year-old Rina Khoiriyah stands by the side of the winding road crying as she hands out hand-written letters asking for help.

Addressed to "those that have kind hearts," the letters say: "To continue our lives we really need you to help us."

"I could not save anything, none of my valuables," Khoiriyah cried. "All my furniture and beds are in the collapsed house. It is buried. It is all gone, it is all I had."

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 injuries.

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 Lewa Pardomuan and Diyan Jari)