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Sharp increase in Indonesian toll - BBC

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  • Zafar Khan
    Sharp increase in Indonesian toll http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/4134607.stm Indonesia has announced a sharp rise in its death toll from
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 30, 2004
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      Sharp increase in Indonesian toll


      Indonesia has announced a sharp rise in its death toll
      from Sunday's earthquake and sea surges, as
      information from remote areas becomes available.

      The government now says that 79,940 people died as a
      result of the quake and the tsunamis it triggered.

      Relief workers have finally got to some remote areas
      on the west coast of Sumatra, near the quake's

      But many other areas are still out of reach, and there
      are fears the death toll is likely to rise still

      After four days without contact, aid workers have
      finally reached Meulaboh, one of the largest towns on
      the western coast - and the closest to the
      earthquake's epicentre.

      Arriving by ship, the rescue teams gave out much
      needed supplies in the town, most of which is thought
      to have been virtually flattened by Sunday's
      earthquake and subsequent sea surges.

      Emil Agostiono, a spokesman for the Indonesian
      Ministry of People's Welfare, said he estimated that
      about 10,000 people had died in Meulaboh alone.

      But told the BBC that there were still problems in
      getting aid to the people in the west coast region,
      adding that it would take about a month to restore
      road links.

      Helicopters are attempting to fly in relief supplies,
      but so far they have been unable to land in many areas
      due to the floods.

      There are thought to be only two helicopters available
      for use in the whole of Aceh, and rescue workers are
      citing this as a major factor holding up the relief

      "There are just simply not enough helicopters to get
      to the affected areas," admitted Dr Mulya Hasmi, the
      head of the health department in Aceh.

      Hospitals overwhelmed

      Even in the more accessible Banda Aceh, the capital of
      Aceh province on the northern tip of Sumatra,
      survivors are still desperately short of basics such
      as clean drinking-water.

      A BBC correspondent in the city, Andrew Harding, says
      the logistics for distributing aid are extremely

      There is only one small airport, petrol is scarce and
      key coastal roads have been blocked where the tsunamis
      took out bridges.

      Meanwhile, in the region's hospitals, staff have been
      overwhelmed by the numbers of dead and injured.
      Infection is already said to be spreading in the
      tropical heat.

      Health experts are warning that - in all the countries
      affected by Sunday's disaster - outbreaks of diseases
      such as malaria and cholera could prove as deadly as
      the effects of the earthquake, unless preventative
      measures are taken as soon as possible.

      But the sheer scale of the disaster is proving too
      much for local officials to cope with.

      "Aceh's health system is not able to cope because
      Acehnese medical staff are either dead, or too
      traumatised to work because they have lost family
      members," Dr Hasmi told the BBC.

      On the streets of Banda Aceh, thousands of Indonesian
      troops have been drafted in to help clear the rotting

      With little ceremony, rescuers are using bulldozers to
      dig mass graves and bury the thousands of corpses.

      But they are still not working fast enough, and bodies
      continue to litter the streets, according to our

      Despite clearing the river of corpses on Wednesday,
      thousands more had washed into the city with the tide
      by Thursday morning, he added.

      The humanitarian disaster in Aceh is complicated by
      the continuing separatist conflict in the province.

      On Thursday, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang
      Yudhoyono called on separatist rebels to lay down
      their arms and help re-build the region.

      Both sides declared a ceasefire after Sunday's
      earthquake, but some rebels have remained active in
      Aceh despite the devastation.

      President Yudhoyono said the hope for Aceh was to
      build a future with the rest of Indonesia.

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