Indonesia calls for quake help as bodies rot in heat

Last Updated: Saturday, October 3, 2009 - 00:29

Padang (Indonesia): Quake-hit Indonesia
appealed for foreign aid on Friday as the stench of decomposing
bodies hung over wrecked buildings where overwhelmed rescuers
scrabbled for survivors.

In the city of Padang, which was devastated by
Wednesday`s 7.6-magnitude earthquake, emergency teams faced a
third night of work to pull bodies from ruins that have
claimed the lives of at least 1,100 people.

"Our main problem is that there are a lot of victims
still trapped in the rubble. We are struggling to pull them
out," Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari told

"We need help from foreign countries for evacuation
efforts. We need them to provide skilled rescuers with
equipment," she said, also appealing for medics to treat badly
injured victims, many with broken bones.

A spokeswoman for the United Nations` World Food
Programme said it had not yet received an official request for
aid from Indonesia but expected it "would come very shortly,"
with food and heavy lifting gear ready on standby.

Homeless survivors in the coastal city had spent two
nights sleeping out in the open and were hungry, frightened
and falling victim to profiteers who had jacked up prices of
water and other essentials.

Several countries have pledged aid and sent emergency
teams to the area, but efforts to organise a full-scale rescue
operation were hampered by blocked roads, broken power lines,
and patchy communication networks.

The Red Cross in Geneva said aerial photos suggested
the disaster zone extended much further than had previously
been known, stretching far across West Sumatra, with some
villages entirely destroyed.

"The feedback is that Padang city and environs are
bad, but once you go outside into the surrounding rural areas,
the situation is very seriously grave," said Christine South
of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red
Crescent Society.

"There was talk of complete devastation of some
villages -- 100 per cent devastation -- and 50 percent in
others," she added.

Rescuers labouring in the tropical heat in Padang said
they lacked essential heavy machinery like cutting equipment
and excavators.

"We don`t have proper equipment. We don`t even have
dogs," said Suryadi Soedarmo, a surgeon from an emergency
ambulance service in the capital Jakarta who arrived with 10
experts trained to enter collapsed structures.

The United Nations said that 1,100 people had died in
the disaster. The government put the toll at 777 but has said
it expects the figure to go much higher.

According to Red Cross estimates, "thousands of
people are still trapped under the rubble."
Planes laden with aid have started arriving,
international organisations are on the ground and foreign
governments including those of Australia, Japan, Switzerland
and Germany have sent specialist rescue workers and cash.

Bureau Report

First Published: Saturday, October 3, 2009 - 00:29

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