03/31/2005, 00.00
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Nias quake forces government to review its post-tsunami plans

by Mathias Hariyadi
Jakarta is forced to reassess its post-tsunami reconstruction plans. Nias Catholics are preparing to bury their dead. Three new tremors were registered today.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Residents of predominantly Roman Catholic Nias, an island off Sumatra's western coast, are preparing to bury their dead after a severe earthquake flattened most of the island on March 28.

Whilst the search for survivors from the 8.7 quake goes on, Christians are bringing the bodies of friends and relatives to the Santa Maria Catholic church in Gunung Sitoli for funeral services.

 "I can't face it," said Datot Mendra, whose wife lies dead under the rubble. Only "my faith in Jesus is helping me through this."

Nias is very close to the earthquake's epicentre and so far it has suffered most casualties, 340 out of 500 officially confirmed; however, according to official sources, the death toll could reach as high as 2,000.

The Hong Kong observatory registered at least three tremors in the area, one of them measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale, causing alarm as rescue efforts and body recovery operations continued without power and heavy-lifting equipment.

State-owned Enterprises Minister Sugiarto said that almost 85 per cent of the infrastructure on both Nias and Simeulue Islands had been severely damaged—power, water and the communication network have been cut off with rescue and relief operations impaired by the lack of heavy-lifting equipment.

Yesterday Sri Mulyani Indrawati, head of Indonesia's National Development Planning Board, said that Monday's disaster was going to force planners to revise post-tsunami reconstruction plans which had just been unveiled on March 26 during Vice President Jusuf Kalla official visit to Banda Aceh.

The plans constituted only a general framework indicating the lines that reconstruction would take in tsunami-stricken Aceh and Nias, where almost 130,000 people had lost their lives back in December.

Its focus was on four key elements, namely rebuilding social ties, re-establishing Islamic values and norms, restoring the economy and rebuilding infrastructure and governmental institutions. However, many analysts were concerned that reconstruction funding was inadequate.

Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs Mahendra Siregar has called for changes to the government budget, saying that "without money, no reconstruction program (in Aceh) can be implemented."

This morning President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Social Affairs Minister Bachtiar Chamsjah started touring Nias Island. 

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See also
Nias: a forgotten disaster
Hundreds of quake victims on Banyak Islands
Small signs of things getting back to normal in Banda Ache and Meulaboh
Treating mental disorders among Nias tsunami survivors
Christians mobilise to help Nias quake victims


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