Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Magnitude 8.2 Earthquake Struck Sumatera (3 of 3)

Source: The Jakarta Post
Date: March 30, 2005

World offers condolences, relief after new Indonesian quake

Washington (Agencies): The United Nations and other countries around the world offered condolences and relief Tuesday after more than a thousand people were feared to have died when a huge earthquake rocked an island off northwest Indonesia.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was "deeply distressed" by news of the earthquake, a UN spokesman said.

"He pledges the United Nations' support for the people of Indonesia at this difficult hour, as well as its readiness to help with reconstruction efforts at the appropriate time," the spokesman pointed out as reported by AFP.

Singapore sent military helicopters and a team of medical and rescue workers to the island of Nias, which bore the brunt of the 8.7-magnitude quake that triggered tsunami warnings and caused panic across the Indian Ocean.

China's government said it would donate US$500,000 in cash to Indonesia, while its Red Cross pledged $300,000.

The European Union's executive commission said it had sent an assessment team to the affected area and would offer financial aid if needed.

"The news of this tragic event again hitting your country leaves me deeply hurt," said Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini, offering the sympathies of the Italian people in a message to his counterpart in Indonesia, Hassan Wirayuda.

Relief agencies in Britain reacted swiftly to the killer earthquake.

Oxfam International, active in the region following the December quake, said it had sent an assessment team to Nias island by helicopter from the regional Indonesian capital Banda Aceh to size up the scale of the disaster.

Germany also extended an offer of assistance, if it is needed.

"Your country suffered immeasurably from the tsunami in December and for Indonesia to suffer a large number of dead and injured again so soon afterwards is particularly tragic," Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a letter of condolence to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

South Africa offered emergency relief to Indonesia "within the limited resources at its disposal" as President Thabo Mbeki expressed his condolences.

Ottawa is prepared to give aid to earthquake victims in Indonesia, Canada's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"On behalf of all Canadians, I would like to express my deepest sympathies for the loss of life and the destruction caused by this earthquake," Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew said, adding that the Canadian Embassy in Jakarta was "closely monitoring" the situation.

A New Zealand aid group is sending boats with medical teams to the Indonesian island of Nias to help those injured in the devastating earthquake, a New Zealand aid agency said on Wednesday.

New Zealand private aid group SurfAid would also fly doctors to Nias in a helicopter as soon as they find one to hire, said government funding agency NZAid spokeswoman Catrina McDiarmid.

"As soon as they have one they'll take it up," McDiarmid said as quoted by AP, adding the group had "arranged four boats and they're staffing those with local doctors and nurses which will go to Nias."


Source: The Jakarta Post
Date: March 30, 2005

Nias quake kills hundreds

Hundreds of islanders in North Sumatra and Aceh who escaped the terrible waves of three months ago were killed early Tuesday in a strong earthquake.

Residents started to search through smoldering rubble for survivors on Nias Island on Tuesday and relatives wept over the bodies of the dead after a huge undersea earthquake struck the region, triggering tsunami warnings and causing massive panic around the Indian Ocean rim.

Estimates of the number dead ranged from 330 to 2,000, apart from some 100 in Simeulue island in the province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam.

The epicenter of Monday's quake, which measured 8.7 on the Richter scale, was just 320 kilometers away from that of the Dec. 26 quake, which sent giant waves crashing into 12 nations, killing over 273,000 people, mostly in Aceh. Nias was also affected by the tsunami but only some 130 were reported dead.

Unlike residents on Sumatra's mainland, locals on Nias and Simeulue said they had escaped to higher ground following the earthquake after seeing the ocean recede, which they knew meant a tsunami was on the way. They cited their elders' stories of similar disasters, which, among other things, had led to the stranding of whales.

Budi Atmaji Adiputro, a spokesman for the Coordinating Agency for National Disaster Relief, said rescuers found 330 bodies in the rubble on Tuesday. The toll was expected to rise as more bodies were believed to be trapped in collapsed buildings, he said.

From the air, it appeared that about 30 percent of the buildings in Gunung Sitoli, the island's biggest city, were destroyed, and there was significant damage to the island's second biggest town, Teluk Dalam, Associated Press reported.

But Antara said that some 80 percent of the buildings in Gunung Sitoli had been destroyed. It added that many bridges were down, while telecommunications and electricity were still out.
Most people in Gunung Sitoli had fled to the hills amid fears of a tsunami.

The head of the health office in Aceh province, Mulya Hasjmy, told Agence France Presse that a disaster task force on Simeulue island had counted 100 dead.

But Vice President Jusuf Kalla told the British Broadcasting Corporation that reports from Nias indicated that between 1,000 and 2,000 people had died. Nias Island, which is popular with surfers, has a population of some 700,000 people.

The undersea quake struck about 200 kilometers off the west coast of Sumatra and prompted Indonesia, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand, among other nations, to issue imminent tsunami warnings.

Alerts went out on television and radio, while police and local residents tried to shepherd people away from the coast towards higher ground.

But the giant tsunamis never materialized and three hours after the quake Indonesia and Thailand gave the all-clear. Sri Lanka and India followed several hours later, AFP reported.

Survivors -- frail, weeping and swathed in bloody bandages -- described how they were trapped by falling rubble when the giant tremor struck.

Some 20 people, mostly suffering from broken bones, deep cuts and bruises, were flown from Nias aboard two UN helicopters to the Sumatra island city of Sibolga, where they were transferred to hospital.

"I was fast asleep when the earthquake occurred but I woke up just in time to escape from the crumbling roof of my dormitory," 20-year-old student Serasi Hulu, who suffered a broken arm and fingers, told AFP.

Pale, bruised and visibly weak from his ordeal, Hulu said he had tried to dash from his room but was pinned down by falling masonry.

"Before I managed to get out of the house, part of the roof fell on me and I was trapped for several hours along with two of my high school mates," he said. "I believe they may have died."

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who decided to delay official trips to Australia, New Zealand and East Timor, held an emergency Cabinet meeting on Tuesday to coordinate the relief operation for Nias.

"We had just ended the emergency relief operation in Aceh and Nias when we were taken by surprise again by the earthquake in Nias and Simeulue," said Susilo, who is also planning to visit the islands.

He also welcomed the immediate response of the international community and the offers to help Indonesia.

Singapore said it had dispatched military helicopters and a team of medical and rescue workers to Nias, while Japan offered to send relief goods, paramedics and troops.

Australia promised US$1 million, while China announced it would donate $300,000.

Meanwhile, aid flights began reaching Nias Island on Tuesday. Bad weather, a damaged airport and heavy cloud cover kept many flights from landing, but in the afternoon there were reports of at least three planes touching down on the island.


Source: The Jakarta Post
Date: March 30, 2005

Susilo delays trips in honor of quake victims
By Muninggar Sri Saraswati and Rendi A. Witular, Jakarta

As a token of sympathy to the victims of the 8.7-magnitude earthquake affecting Nias and Simeuleu islands, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono delayed his visit to Australia, New Zealand and East Timor scheduled to start on Wednesday.

Instead, Susilo will pay a visit to the quake-affected areas, which were also affected by the Dec. 26 9.0-magnitude temblor along the same the fault line.

"I decided to postpone the visit until we are sure that we can handle the calamities there," the president told the public at the State Palace on Tuesday. "I was scheduled to visit the three countries for six days. The trip was supposed to be a follow-up cooperation on post-tsunami disaster in Aceh."

However, Susilo did not say if there was a new schedule for the visit, saying "it will be done sometime in the future".

Susilo is slated to visit the quake-affected islands on Wednesday or Thursday to directly assess the damages and coordinate the emergency relief efforts.

"I will visit Nias and Simeuleu. But the most important thing is that the aid, medical workers and doctors arrive first," he said.

Susilo was originally scheduled to fly to Australia on Wednesday to sign several bilateral cooperation agreements in the defense, economic and science sectors, as well as meeting Prime Minister John Howard, who attended Susilo's inauguration last year.

Susilo, who planned to visit Canberra and Sydney, was also slated to meet Australian opposition leader Kim Beazley and Governor General Michael Jeffrey.

On April 3, Susilo was scheduled to arrive in New Zealand to meet Prime Minister Helen Clark and local opposition leaders.

The president had planned to wrap up his six-day trip by visiting East Timor on April 4 to meet President Xanana Gusmao and Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda said the countries had been informed by his ministry on the postponement, with a possible rescheduling for the visit until next week.

"We have informed them of the delay and we are seeking the best time for the visit. I think the delay will be no more than a week," he said, adding that the three countries understood and accepted the reason for the delay.

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