10/06/2009, 00.00
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Sumatra quake survivors without food or water. The Church at the forefront of rescue

by Mathias Hariyadi
Some villages are still inaccessible and there are fears for the spread of diseases especially in the cities of Padang and Pariaman. Catholic doctors and volunteers from the parishes of the island have arrived to join the rescue effort. Severe damage also to the church property. The Bishop of Situmorang: All aid is urgently needed at this time of great need.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Thousands of people are suffering from hunger in the District of Pariaman Padang (West Sumatra), after the earthquake that hit the area on September 30.   In the area of Korong, one of the worst hit, over 320 families are without food, drinking water and medicines. Because of the destruction caused by the earthquake to roads and bridges, first aid arrived only two days ago, October 4th, carried on the rescuers backs.

Minister of Health Siti Fadillah Supari, says the death toll could amount to 3 thousand, but the figure will only be confirmed in the weeks to come. The authorities have now abandoned the search for possible survivors still buried under the rubble of the 180 thousand houses and 20 thousand buildings destroyed by the quake.    

Aid will now focus on the survivors, trapped in villages still inaccessible and there are fears for the spread of diseases especially in the cities of Padang and Pariaman.

Michael Utama, a leading Catholic involved in the rescue operation, told AsiaNews that "in every corner of Padang you can smell the stench of decomposing bodies". After a reconnaissance of the district, on an army helicopter, he concludes: "There are only ruins. No electricity, no drinking water. Some villages were destroyed, others literally disappeared”.   The Church of Padang is at the forefront in delivering aid to the population along with several Catholic organizations in the district and the island. Fr. Alexius, treasurer of the diocese, said that "there is immediate need for food, because many survivors are hungry and we need a rapid organization of logistics to facilitate the transport of food and drinking water".

Dr Irene Setiadi, of the German Christian organization Humanitarian and Charity Group (KBKK), sent an e-mail telling AsiaNews that "many doctors arrived to help staff the Yos Sudarso hospita of Padang. Among them there are also members of Perdhaki, the association of Catholic doctors in Jakarta.   The KBKK has set up two warehouses for the collection of aid from the churches of St. Joseph and St. Francis of Assisi. From Jakarta volunteers from the parish of St. James of Kelapa Gading and the Trinity of Bogor have arrived. "We see rotting corpses everywhere - says Setiadi - and the situation is truly heartbreaking."  Dr. Setiadi adds: "We can only provide food for the next two weeks" and explains that it is also urgent to find "large tents to accommodate students and teachers who are trying to return to school and 20 generators for electricity”.

Bishop Martinus Dogma Situmorang, bishop of Padang, tells AsiaNews of the urgency for all kinds of help in this time of great need. Thousands of faithful from the diocese have suffered severe damage to homes or have seen them razed to the ground. Even the church property has suffered serious damage. Part of the cathedral of the city collapsed, and the Catholic elementary schools and kindergartens are damaged. Also the residence of the Sisters of the Society of Catholic Medical Missionaries was destroyed.

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