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Javanese rebuild shattered lives after quake

Written by: Staff
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KERTEN, Indonesia, June 4 (Reuters) Seventy-year-old Karyo Slamet, a victim of Indonesia's earthquake, sits under a makeshift bamboo shelter watching Guns 'n Roses lead singer Axl Rose belt out a rock song on her small television.

Her family has strung up two kms of electrical cable, which hangs from trees, to bring power from another village to their camp on the slopes of a lush hill.

The earthquake that hit Yogyakarta last Saturday, killing more than 6,000, may have turned hundreds of villages into rubble, but the Javanese are resilient and have started rebuilding their lives.

Villagers clamber over the splintered remains of their houses, searching for anything that could be used again, knowing they can not just sit and wait for aid, which is struggling to reach the patchwork of villages around this ancient capital.

''We don't get any help, so we have to help ourselves,'' said Dwi Santoso, 33, as he loaded bricks into a cart in Kerten village in the worst-hit Bantul area.

''We collect the unbroken bricks, roof tiles and timber, anything that can be used again.'' Kerten is nestled amongst green rice paddies at the foot of a hill. It was a happy, prosperous village of farmers. Now not one of its 100 houses is standing. Five people were killed and more than 100 taken to hospital.

Nuggety Slamet Riyadt, 40, nurses a broken right arm in a sling after being buried under the wall of his house.

''My son rescued me. He dug with his hands,'' Riyadt told Reuters. ''This village is very sad, but this is a trial from God, so we have to accept it.'' The people of Kerten live in bamboo and tin shelters along the dirt road that separates their village from a rice paddy.

Old ladies with broken legs and young babies suckling their mother's breast lay on the ground in the shelters, hiding from the heat, as the men and boys work their way through the rubble.

Wardrobes that survived the quake have been lined up along the road, like silent sentinels waiting for their owners to return.

Broken walls are crowned with stacks of plates, cups and kitchen utensils to be used in the communal village kitchen.

The village's kitchen is on the floor of a verandah which no longer has a house attached. Women sit, chopping beans, garlic, eggplant, carrot and grate coconut in preparation for a meal.

Using only three small brick fires it will take them three hours to cook enough food to feed 65 people.

Only one water well works. It is only used for washing, but children are breaking out in skin irritations.

At the back of the village, across a bamboo foot bridge which straddles a small river, a family has retreated to a camp in the thick hill-side vegetation.

''We feel safe now. We go back to the old ways,'' says the elderly Karyo Slamet, watching Guns 'n Roses on television.

The other elder Javanese, smoking clove cigarettes and drinking sweet tea in the shelter, nod and smile in agreement.

REUTERS SHB RN0854

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