01/05/2005, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Famine haunts the population of Simeuleu Island

by Mathias Hariyadi
The island lacks food, drinking water and medicines. In Banda Aceh makeshift shelters are being built out of tsunami rubble.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Famine haunts the population of Simeuleu Island. So far no one has come to the rescue of the small island of 73,000 people.

According to Indonesian daily Kompas, no relief and humanitarian aid has reached it since Sunday, December 26.

The paper reports that people on the island are already going hungry and might soon suffer from epidemic outbreaks because of lack of medicines.

Simeuleu is a small island off Banda Aceh near the epicentre of the quake that struck the Indian Ocean on December 26.

Whilst survivors in Banda Aceh have started building makeshift shelters out of salvaged material from the city's ruins, residents on Simeuleu seem to have been forgotten.

Ibnu Abbas, Simeuleu' Deputy Mayor, reached Kompas by satellite phone to complain that the island is being neglected.

"We are very concerned about the government's statement that Simeuleu is not urgent," Mr Abbas is quoted as saying. "This is very wrong since this island was one of the most tsunami-affected areas. If humanitarian relief does not come soon, there will be mass famine among the island's 73 thousands people."

The Deputy Mayor added that although the "number of victims is very 'small' with only six people dead and 50 badly injured, the main problem is how people will survive [when] 50 percent of the island's 15 thousand homes have been destroyed by the tsunami".

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry reported today that "at least 500,000 Indonesians have become refugees".

At the same time, aftershock are still been felt. In Banda Aceh people were woken by a 5.7 quake measuring at around 1.30 am. No victims were reported.

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday visited Aceh bringing heavy machines.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Florida Governor Jeb Bush travelled to Banda Aceh.

Strong criticism is now being voiced at former presidents B. P. Suharto, B. J. Habibie, A. Wahid and M. Sukarnoputri who so far have said little or nothing about the national tragedy.

Only B. J. Habibie, who is now living in Germany, released a statement today through his Jakarta-based Habibie Center saying that it would soon help tsunami victims through a foster parent plan.

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