New Year celebrations cancelled in Jakarta
by Mathias Hariyadi
Indonesia's bishops urge fund raising for people left disabled by the tsunami.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesia's president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been urged to call on the nation to cancel New Year celebrations. 

Jakarta's governor Sutiyoso cancelled traditional New Year's Eve celebrations. The event, which involves dances and fireworks, usually takes place in the tourist area of Ancol (northern section of the capital) and draws thousands of people.

Other provinces have decided to follow suit and cancel scheduled events. Many bars and hotels are, however, likely to resist.

The bishops' Conference of Indonesia today issued a pastoral letter calling on the faithful to help tsunami victims in Aceh and North Sumatra.

On Saturday, New Year's day, and on Sunday, special collections will be held throughout the country.

In their letter, the bishops stress that funds will go to emergency relief but in particular to those left disabled by the natural disaster. "Special attention," it reads, "should be paid to those disabled victims since their future is not as bright as that of other victims".

Catholics, too, are asking for aid and assistance. The sudden surge has in fact inflicted catastrophic wounds on the diocese of Sibonga, in particular Nias Island.

A Church group from Gunung Sitoli was dispatched to Siromobo and Mandrehe (West Nias) with supplies. The group includes medical staff led by Fr Michael To, who reported that some Catholics have been buried in mass graves.

Under normal circumstances, the 90 km (55 miles) distance can be covered in three-four hour, but it took the group the last few days to travel the same distance over impassable, mud-coated roads.

According to Father To the most urgent needs are water, food, medicines and cooking utensils since survivors have lost everything.

Indonesia's second largest Islamic organisation, Muhammadiyah, is organising a 1,000-strong task force to go to Aceh next week, but their problem is getting to the province.

Indonesia's Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari said there are enough medical doctors in the stricken areas but not enough nurses. For this reason, she is organising volunteer nursing staff from Jakarta, Medan and other Indonesian provinces.

In Meulaboh, where 90 per cent of the city has been flattened, 11,000 residents are homeless and suffering from diarrhoea and lack of food and drinking water.

Local food reserves are expected to run out in a week's time.