06/05/2006, 00.00
INDONESIA

Java: Starting from scratch after quake

by Mathias Hariyadi

AsiaNews visited the areas hardest hit by the 27 May quake in Java: Wedi, Gantiwarno and Bayat in Klaten regency. Here are the stories of survivors, who search among the ruins for items of value, and who are paralyzed by terror. The tragedy has led to previously unheard-of trends, like begging and heavy vehicle traffic.

Wedi (AsiaNews) – By day, they remove the debris of what was once their home, and they build makeshift shelters that line the streets. By night, they try to sleep, in the cold, in a tent, but aftershocks prevent peaceful slumber. And no help is coming from the government. This is life in Wedi, Gantiwarno and Bayat districts in Klaten Regency, one week after a tragic earthquake that killed 5,782 people on the Indonesian island of Java. AsiaNews visited these places, more or less forgotten by the media and the authorities, and talked to survivors.

The quake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale completely destroyed 30 villages and flattened 40,000 homes.

Ganesha is a university student from Jember whose parents are from Wedi, to where he rushed after the disaster. He told AsiaNews: "The tremendous damage is unthinkable… I was speechless when I saw the situation. People have been stranded by uncertainty and a shortage of everything makes it nearly impossible for them to be able to rebuild their lives."

Mukir, 58 years, a Catholic resident of Gayamharjo di Njali, said: "Survivors are now fully dependent on relief aid teams both financially and materially." While helping his neighbours to clean their debris, he adds:  "You can see for yourself here: people help one another, what else can we do?"

The house of the Soeradjis family in Jabung, Gantiwarno, was severely damaged. "We must start again from scratch," said Aghata, the daughter, while her father recalled: "We were about to wake up, when a strong earthquake jolted and suddenly the wall collapsed on my wife, who is now in hospital in Solo."

The earthquake swept away everything that Mrs Suwito of the village of Jiwo Wetan owned. "I have nothing more, except the clothes I am wearing now," said the woman, who must live on the side of the main road from Wedi to Bayat, without even a tent.

As they have received no aid at all from the government, people must fumble in the ruins to find something to eat. Two women aged over 70 were rummaging among the remains of fallen buildings to find something of value. Both were dirty and sweaty in temperature reaching 39°. One of them, Mrs Prawiro, had no relatives around and her only son in Surabaya (east Java) had not yet gone to find out how she was. Mrs Yati, meanwhile, was completely alone.

Meanwhile, more and more settlements of tents are lining the streets, where survivors prefer to live, fearing tremors yet to come. Wahyuni, a mother of three, originally from Jabung in Gantiwarno, said: "We have no choice but to stay here in the strong sunshine and the cold weather at night."

Aftershocks have become a daily occurrence; Suliyah from Jagalan village, asked: "How can we sleep if we feel aftershocks every night? We are terrified."

The landscape of these stricken areas has changed in more ways that one. Not only do tents line the streets; there are also beggars, especially children, something previously unheard of. They come from different places in Indonesia and many are relatives of the victims. Also previously unknown is the heavy traffic of vehicles, so congested that locals say they have been unable even to move their motorcycles for a week.

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