Wednesday 18 September 2019

Indonesia president makes rebuilding pledge on visit to earthquake survivors

A resident clears rubble from the ruin of his house in Pidie Jaya (AP)
A resident clears rubble from the ruin of his house in Pidie Jaya (AP)

Indonesia's president has travelled to areas of Aceh province devastated by a magnitude 6.5 earthquake, as estimates of the number of displaced people swelled, and vowed that torn-apart communities would be rebuilt.

Stopping at a collapsed mosque in Tringgading, not far from the quake's epicentre, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo gave out envelopes stuffed with 15 million rupiah (£900) - a small fortune in Aceh where the minimum wage is about 2 million rupiah (£120) a month - to people whose family members were killed.

"I've already decided that the mosque will be rebuilt as soon as possible, but we have to do it together starting tomorrow," he told the crowd.

At least 100 people were killed in the quake which hit the north-east of Aceh province on Sumatra before dawn on Wednesday. Hundreds of others were injured and more than 11,000 buildings destroyed or damaged. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said about 23,000 people are displaced. They are staying in temporary shelters and mosques or with relatives.

Killer quakes occur regularly in the region, where many live with the terrifying memory of a huge earthquake off Sumatra on December 26 2004 earthquake. The magnitude 9.1 quake triggered a devastating tsunami which killed more than 100,000 Acehnese.

"I don't know what to do but I'm really thankful for this (donation)," said Miftahuddin, who received 15 million rupiah (£900) from Mr Jokowi. "Because we don't have anything left," said Miftahuddin, who goes by one name.

A substantial relief effort is unde rway involving the government, military and international humanitarian organisations.

Earlier on Friday morning, Mr Jokowi and his entourage visited a hospital in the town of Sigli where the injured are being treated. The damaged hospital in Pidie Jaya district near the epicentre has been overwhelmed and some patients were accommodated in tents on its grounds.

Hospital director Mohammad Reza said Mr Jokowi handed out envelopes containing 5 million rupiah (£300) to each of the injured.

"His visit is likely a motivation for the victims to move on," Mr Reza said.

Officials lowered the death toll to 100 from 102 on Thursday, with the disaster mitigation agency saying the names of two victims had been recorded twice.

Sniffer dogs joined a search for bodies and possible survivors in the hard-hit town of Meureudu, where a market filled with shop houses was largely flattened. Four other locations in Pidie Jaya are also the focus of search efforts.

Darma Yanti, who ran a garment business in the market with her husband, said it was a miracle she survived both Wednesday's earthquake and the 2004 tsunami.

Ms Yanti and her husband, who have a 10-month-old baby, were woken by a strong jolt which was quickly followed by a boom as their building swayed. Only later did she realise the explosion-like sound was an adjacent row of shop houses collapsing.

"I heard people shouting from the debris: Men, women, children," she said, sobbing. "Oh my God, I know some of them well. They are my friends, my neighbours, but I can't do anything to help them."


PA Media

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