Indonesia's airspace now open to foreign relief operations
Jakarta (AsiaNews) Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Ydhoyono announced that his country's airspace was open to foreign and civilian planes carrying relief supplies to Blang Bintang air force base, in Banda Aceh. The President himself is set to tour the most affected areas today.
"Two Australian military cargo planes arrived in Blang Bintang," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yuri Thamrin. "We warmly welcome any foreign aid brought in by plane or ship to Aceh," he added.
Germany, the US and India are sending field hospitals to the area. To facilitate relief operations, entry requirement will be waved. The United Nations are also sending eight cargo planes to the area. But before this can happen, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry will have sent the necessary clearance to the Aceh headquarters of the Indonesian armed forces and the Aceh Relief Centre chaired by Social Welfare Minister Alwi Shihab.
Foreign aid workers will be able to come in without having to apply and pay for the visa required to enter a region that has been troubled in the last few years by clashes between the separatist Free Aceh Movement and the central government forces
President Susilo instructed the Social Welfare Minister to stay and coordinate relief operations after Aceh Governor Abdullah Puteh was removed from his post for alleged corruption.
"As long as rescue operations are not over", Ms Alwi Shihab said, "I shall remain in Banda Aceh. I urge all NGO officials to stay with us for this humanitarian mission."
After Friday prayers in Jakarta's Grand Istiqlal Mosque, President Susilo will fly to Aceh. He will first visit Meulaboh, a virtual ghost town after the tsunami destroyed 90 per cent of it.
Rescue operations in the city are being coordinated by Social Affairs Bachtiar Chamsyah.
Army Gen Ryamizard Ryacudu is in charge of military and police forces. He has ordered Banda Aceh's grand mosque cleaned from mud and bodies.
In Meulaboh, supplies will be dropped by plane because there is no other way.
The military is deployed throughout the region to prevent looting.
Private airliners have added their weight to the humanitarian effort by offering free passage to aid workers going to Aceh. Lion Air has made 100 seats available, Batavia Air, another 90, not to mention Mandala Air and Adam Air.
The Ministry of Social Welfare today issued the latest death toll for Aceh and North Sumatra provinces:
The figures per area are as follows:
15,000 in Banda Aceh
15,000 in Aceh Jaya
14,000 in Aceh Besar
12.000 in Sabang, Weh Island off Banda Aceh
10,200 in Meulaboh
5,000 in Calung
1,540 in North Aceh
1,359 in Pidie
594 in Bireun
500 in Nagan Village, North Sumatra
227 in Nias, North Sumatra Province
224 in East Aceh
157 in Lhokseumawe
117 died in Krueng Mane
8 in Cermin Coast
4 in Simeule
3 in Adam Malik Hospital of North Sumatra
1 in Central Tapanuli, North Sumatra