Indonesia calls for quake help as bodies rot in heat
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Last Updated: Saturday, October 03, 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 reporters.

"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 03, 2009, 00:29

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