- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 28, 2006

BANTUL, Indonesia — Tens of thousands camped out yesterday for a second night on streets, in cassava fields and in the paths between rice paddies as the death toll from Indonesia’s earthquake topped 5,100.

Rattled by hundreds of aftershocks, exhausted and grieving survivors scavenged for food and clothes in the brick, wood and tile rubble of their flattened houses. They pleaded for aid, which — despite worldwide pledges of millions of dollars and planes carrying medicine and food — seemed to be coming too slowly.

Torrential rain late yesterday added to the misery of about 200,000 people left homeless by Saturday’s 6.3 magnitude quake, most of them living in makeshift shelters of plastic, canvas or cardboard. Thousands of wounded awaited treatment in hospitals overflowing with bloodied patients.

“So far, no one from the government has shown any care for us,” said villager Brojo Sukardi. “Please tell people to help us.”

The quake on the island of Java was the fourth destructive temblor to hit Indonesia in the past 17 months, including the one that spawned the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami that killed 230,000 people across Asia, most of them on this Indian Ocean archipelago.

The country also is coping with the bird flu crisis, Islamic militant terror attacks and the threat of eruption from Mount Merapi. The quake not only raised activity at the rumbling volcano, but also damaged the ninth-century Prambanan temple, deemed a world heritage site by the United Nations.

The disaster zone covered hundreds of square miles of mostly farming communities to the south of the ancient city of Yogyakarta. Power and telephone service was out across much of the region. As many as 450 aftershocks followed, the strongest a magnitude 5.2.

The biggest toll was in the Bantul district, which accounted for three-quarters of the deaths. One man dug his 5-year-old daughter out of the rubble of her bedroom only to have her die in a hospital awaiting treatment with hundreds of others.

“Her last words were ‘Daddy, Daddy,’” said Poniran, who like many Indonesians uses only one name. “I have to start my life from zero again.”

The U.N. World Food Program started distributing emergency food rations, with three trucks bringing high-energy biscuits to some of the worst-hit districts and two Singapore military cargo planes landing with doctors and medical supplies.

At least 5,115 persons were killed, according to government figures, and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said at least 200,000 people were left homeless.


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