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Indonesia quake victims angry; aid not flowing

Written by: Staff

Yogyakarta, Jun 6: Dozens of aid trucks laden with rice remained blocked today in government depots due to bureaucratic bottlenecks, angering Indonesian earthquake survivors struggling to rebuild their shattered lives.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla, in the stricken Javanese city of Yogyakarta to oversee aid distribution, had said 200 trucks would start delivering rice to survivors today.

But as the day dragged on, 36 trucks full with rice remained in one local government depot alone.

Further angering survivors, local authorities decided to reduce the initial amount of aid money being distributed to victims until further damage assessments were carried out.

''Everybody was hoping to get a full sum immediately. This decision will cause unhappiness,'' said village head Mohamad Temon, 55, who had gone to the government centre to collect aid disbursement papers.

Ten days after a magnitude 6.3 quake struck Java island at dawn on May 27, killing 5,782 people, tens of thousands remain homeless, living under plastic sheets and tarpulins and in donated tents.

Many are poor labourers and farmers, who make a subsistence living on a patchwork of rice paddys which dot the villages, and have little money to buy food after the quake, let alone building materials.

''I've not seen the money or the rice,'' said an angry Sajiyo, a 45-year-old labourer, as he stood in front of his badly damaged house in Palbapang village in the hardest-hit area, Bantul.

Sajiyo said authorities had told him that when he received money, it will be only 360,000 rupiah to feed a family of four, instead of the 860,000 rupiah entitlement promised.

His neighbour Poniman, whose house was totally destroyed, said he had been told he would receive no money at all.

''I'm very sad and disappointed,'' said the 37-year-old labourer, who earns just 15,000 Rupiah a day and is the sole bread winner for a family of six, including his aged parents.

Indonesia's minister for people's welfare, Aburizal Bakrie, told reporters: ''I anticipate some jealousy, because some will receive the money and some won't''.

The United Nations has estimated that more than 200,000 homes were destroyed or badly damaged, yet only about 70,000 families have received housing assistance.

Health officials said sanitation remained a major concern due to dirty water and the World Health Organisation plans a mass vaccination against tetanus and measles.

The United Nations says a 103 million dollars six-month relief operation is needed to provide aid such as emergency shelter, medical assistance, clean water, sanitation, food and child protection across the quake-devastated region.

But as anxious survivors tried to feed and shelter their families, they were also looking apprehensively north to restive Mount Merapi, which was threatening to erupt.

Merapi has been belching toxic gases and spewing lava for days, but today the volcanic activity grew.

Meteorological authorities said Merapi's gas cloud now stretched four km and lava flows were reaching seven km from the crater.

Merapi, which killed more than 60 lives in 1994 and 1,300 in an 1930 eruption, has rumbled for weeks and sporadically emitted hot lava and toxic gases.

Many villages on its slopes have been evacuated.

Superstitious Javanese continue to make offerings to the gods and spirits in an effort to stave off an eruption.


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