Quake death toll rises
by Mathias Hariyadi

The death toll has surpassed 3,300; the number of injured is "unclear". The pope, "profoundly saddened to hear about the devastating quake", prayed for "victims and their families", and "invited rescuers to persevere in efforts to deliver relief and support". The Italian bishops will donate two million euros.


Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The death toll continues to rise of the earthquake, measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale, which struck the island of Java yesterday, 27 May. Government sources said "at least 3,340 people died after the violent tremor: of these, 2,615 were killed in the province of Yogyakarta while more than 725 died in the province of Java." The Indonesian vice president, Yusuf Kalla, said: "There are more than 10,000 injured, perhaps twice as much, although we do not know exactly."

Benedict XVI sent a telegram of condolence through the Secretary of State, "for victims of the disastrous quake in Indonesia". "Profoundly saddened to learn about the devastating earthquake near Yogyakarta, His Holiness prays for victims and their grieving families, invoking peace for the deceased and divine comfort and consolation for all those who suffer." Benedict XVI "further encouraged rescue workers and all those involved in supplying medical assistance to victims of the disaster that they may persevere in their efforts to bring relief and support."

The Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, urged all quake survivors to "remain outside buildings to prevent further deaths, caused by aftershocks." The president visited survivors in Bantul area and those admitted to Tegalyoso Hospital, Klaten Regency: after his visit, he announced that he had shifted his office from the capital to Yogyakarta, to "be close to the victims".

Together with his wife, Ani Yudhoyono, he pitched a tent near Bantul, where he will sleep together with his working group. "It's safer to stay in tents," he told survivors in the region, "and all of you should follow this advice." There are fears that the quake, measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale, which hit the area on the morning of 27 May, could provoke aftershocks powerful enough to cause more buildings to collapse.

There is no electricity in the area: residents of Bantul and Klaten are using torches and candles to face a complete blackout. Some have decided to stay amid the ruins of their destroyed houses, while others have opted to camp in the countryside or in sports grounds in the open air. One rescue worker said: "The situation is very tough because tents, clothes and medicines are lacking here. Aid is delayed in reaching us because bridges linking the area to the rest of the country have largely been destroyed. Bodies recovered from the debris are being buried together."

"The situation here is very tense. Yogyakarta is now like a ghost city," said Mrs Ninuk Sumaryono, a resident in the northern part of the city. "I am afraid to go to my home because I think everything will be in ruins."

Local authorities fear a sharp rise in the number of victims of Klaten, the regency between Yogyakarta and Surakarta, as volunteers continue to search for survivors. "At the moment, there are nearly 200 victims," said Medi Sukasto, head of the local relief effort. "But we are afraid the number will rise soon. There are thousands of injured people and displaced people have filled all the hospitals and hotels in the area."

Roads have been damaged and the supplies of rescue teams "have almost run out". "We have very little food because we had already distributed everything for people displaced by the eruption on Mount Merapi," said Carolina, a relief worker in Bantul.

The presidency of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI) was among the first to show solidarity, allocating two million euros from the "otto per mille" funds to address most urgent and basic needs.

In a press statement, the CEI, "in the name of all the Italian Church", expressed "intense participation in sorrow for thousands of victims of the earthquake that struck the zone of Yogyakarta in Indonesia." All believers have been invited to "pray for the quake victims" and to "gestures of concrete solidarity to support all people affected emotionally and materially, and to help those who are going all out to deliver first aid and to alleviate the suffering."

Aid delivery will be determined through contacts of the Committee responsible for emergencies and the Apostolic Nunciature and the local episcopate.

6286_INDONESIA - 0528 - Terremoto (150 x 92).jpg