Padang, dangerous epidemics in refugee camps. Earthquake psychosis spreads
by Mathias Hariyadi
The authorities continue their search for the missing. The official tally is of 704 dead, but Red Cross sources speak of more than 3 thousand victims. Controversy over the safety of buildings constructed without seismic criteria. Panic among the Indonesians, who fear more "destructive" shocks.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - One week on from the earthquake that struck the island of Sumatra, the Indonesian authorities have started disinfection of buildings, to prevent the spread of epidemics. Yesterday they continued their search for survivors to concentrate efforts on programs of assistance to the displaced. In the province of East Java and Denpasar, the provincial capital of Bali, panic mounted among the residents for an earthquake of magnitude 8.8 that could hit the area in coming days.


The official toll from the earthquake measuring 7.6 on 30 September last, that devastated the island of Sumatra is 704 dead and 295 missing; according to sources of the Red Cross the victims may be more than 3 thousand. In Padang, meanwhile, disinfection of collapsed buildings has begun, the authorities also fear the outbreak of epidemics in refugee camps, which house tens of thousands of displaced. More than 200 thousand homes and commercial structures collapsed.   

Army helicopters are carrying essential supplies, food and water to remote areas, relief efforts are however hampered by heavy rains that having been falling on the island for several days. The U.S. Pacific Command sent two C-17 military cargo of aid and equipment for a field hospital in Padang, which accommodates up to 400 people a day.  


Meanwhile, controversy  is mounting about the safety of buildings, many of which were built without following seismic criteria. Among the structures collapsed, there are hundreds of schools, constructed by building firms, in search of profit over security. The seismologists agree that there will be other earthquakes in Padang of a "destructive" force, an event that they feel is "inevitable".

Psychosis is spreading like wildfire in many other provinces of the Indonesian archipelago. In the province of East Java and Bali, the population is terrified by rumours of an impending earthquake of magnitude 8.8 and schools have invited parents to keep children at home, government officials have left their offices, people are panicking. The Centre for Geophysics of Denpasar has released an official statement explaining that the fears are "unfounded", the governor of East Java denies the danger, but the sense of insecurity is obvious.  


The fear of powerful new shock has been endorsed by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), which today issued a warning for the next few days that high intensity earthquakes could hit Sumatra, Bengkulu and Lampung, where underground readings reveal "a strong telluric charge "that has not been released yet. The situation could also be complicated by heavy rain and flooding: the rainy season starts in October, and some areas of Jakarta report already distressing situations caused by the rainfall of recent days.  

The danger of new earthquakes has been emphasized even by a spiritual leader of Indonesia, who apparently has read "supernatural signs" of the danger of a powerful earthquake that could hit "Sumatra and Sulawesi islands”. Instead in  Jakarta, there will be "strong winds, fire and huge floods" that will cripple the capital.