04/04/2006, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Nias: a forgotten disaster

by Mathias Hariyadi

One year after an earthquake shattered the Indonesian island, residents complain about a lack of schools, homes, roads and bridges. Displaced people are living in huts set up with their savings. Reconstruction is up to NGOs and the government agency.

Medan (AsiaNews) – One year after it was destroyed by a massive earthquake, the small Indonesian island of Nias in northern Sumatra still lacks everything: schools, homes, bridges and roads. Struck on 28 March by a quake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale, the Christian-majority island appears to have been forgotten by large aid organizations. There are only 60 NGOs at work there compared to 200 NGOs still present in Aceh, struck by the tsunami of 26 December 2004.

Last year's earthquake killed at least 850 people and left more than 6,000 wounded. Victims of the disaster, including children, still cannot enjoy the use of proper school structures. Lessons take place in tents and some classes are held in collapsed houses.

Residents lament the slow pace of reconstruction of the government Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency for Aceh and Nias (BRR). Assereli Zebua, 44 years, head of the state primary school in Maliwa, said: "We have made a direct report to BRR about the situation on the island almost three months ago. But so far, we have not received any reply and no members of their staff have deigned to pay us a visit."

The Nias BRR Chief, William Syahbandar, said that 723 out a total of 879 schools had been destroyed by the disaster. He said the agency had already set up 12 school buildings. "We are preparing another 98 school buildings, while UNICEF will establish 75 non-permanent school buildings."

But it is not only schools that are lacking. The disaster displaced 13,000 people, whose living conditions remain precarious. The BRR has only built 1,448 houses out of 13,000 planned. Most homeless people are living in temporary accommodation they paid to put up, which look like huts rather than houses.

Those living in remote areas face even more discomfort: bridges have not yet been rebuilt and roads are not repaired. People must walk for hours to reach another destination. Yamina Gea, 22 years, must walk for two hours from the village of Halimbowo, in the sub-district of Hiliduo, to go shopping in the nearest village.

The spokesperson of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Paul Dillon, said nearly all infrastructures in Nias were destroyed: 70% of all bridges are no longer in use and the main road from Sitoli Mount to Teluk Dalam is still cut off, as bridges are down.

The IOM will focus to build and rebuilt the wrecked bridges. "Reconstruction and rehabilitation in Nias will be mainly influenced by the bridges," said Dillon.

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