01/06/2005, 00.00
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Small signs of things getting back to normal in Banda Ache and Meulaboh

by Mathias Hariyadi
Banks and markets reopen. Separatist guerrillas shoot at survivors and soldiers in Lhoknga.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Banda Aceh and Meulaboh, two of the worse tsunami-stricken cities, are showing the first signs of life getting back to normal.

In Banda Aceh, capital of Aceh province, banks and markets have reopened whilst public transit is tentatively offering some services

In 90 per cent flattened Meulaboh, local micro-markets are also reopening.

The Indonesian army has patched up some of the bridges that link the city of Medan (North Sumatra province) to Tapak Tuan (South Aceh regency) and Meulaboh making it easier to truck relief supplies into the quake-devastated zone.

The bridge at Lhok Nga (Great Aceh) however is still out of use making travel between Meulaboh and Banda Aceh impossible.

In Aceh's capital, the big Baiturrahman mosque has reopened and so have the two large commercial centres of Labaro and Neuso. Rice, soap, vegetables, eggs, meat and kerosene are now available but at twice pre-tsunami prices.

The December 26 quake was centred right off the northern coast of the island of Sumatra killing about 100,000 people and creating hundreds of thousands of homeless people.

Indonesia's Education Minister Bambang Sudibyo said that school in Banda Aceh will reopen by January 20 with classes held in temporary accommodations. But at least 60,000 school age children and adolescents have no place to go for their primary and secondary education because the earth/seaquake destroyed 1151 schools:  914 elementary schools, 155 secondary schools, 67 post-secondary schools and 15 professional schools.

Going back to normal has also meant renewed fighting by the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka or GAM).

In Lhongka, just 40 km south-west of Banda Aceh, rebel snipers fired their AK-47s from a fishing boat on survivors being helped by Indonesian marines, and then fled.

They were pursued by marines on a rubber dinghy who killed two of them recovering some weapons.

Survivors are now fearful and the Indonesian military, which guards survivor's camps, is on high alert.

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