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Aid trickles into quake-hit Java

Yogyakarta (Indonesia), May 29 (Reuters): Aid trickled in today for survivors of an earthquake that killed more than 5,000 people on Indonesia’s Java island, but tens of thousands of homeless still foraged on their own for food and shelter.

Many survivors who were injured or whose homes were destroyed by the quake spent a rainy second night in the open on the grounds of hospitals and mosques or in makeshift shelters beside the rubble of their houses.

The 6.3 magnitude quake’s official death toll reached 5,136, according to the government’s social affairs department, though the governors of the two affected provinces, Central Java and Yogyakarta, put the figure at a lower 4,395.

The tremor early on Saturday was centred just off the Indian Ocean coast near Yogyakarta, the former Javanese royal capital.

Government figures put the number of injured at 2,155, but Unicef said there were 20,000 injured and more than 130,000 homeless, of which 40 per cent are children.

Hospital lists of the dead also showed children and old people, who had a harder time scrambling from houses as they collapsed, as disproportionately represented among the victims. Those who survived were meanwhile struggling to get by.

In the hard-hit Bantul area of the island, Sutrisno, carrying his 13-month-old baby son, said his village had been reduced to rubble. He has been living in a tent since Saturday.

“Food is still hard to get, aid is still lacking ... I don’t know when help will come,” he said.

Suripto, from the same village, said: “I don’t know why help has been slow to (reach) the poor people.”

Many who lost their homes lack even tents, and government and aid agencies say shelter is a top aid priority, along with clean water. The UN will ship three, 100-bed field hospitals, tents, medical supplies and generators in the next three days.

“These are the most pressing needs,” said a spokeswoman for UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs Jan Egeland.

Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Kalla announced today that survivors would be given 200,000 rupiah ($21) each for clothes and household items, while families would get 12 kg of rice. People will also be compensated for damaged homes.

Yogyakarta’s provincial secretary, Bambang Susanto Priyohadi, said the pace of aid needed to be stepped up.

“The aid has come since last night from the UN. But when I checked this morning, the amount is very minimal,” he said. “For such a large number of victims, we at least need 5,000 tents. At the moment we only have less than 100.”

Priyohadi said evacuating the dead was another priority.

“It has been two days and those bodies probably have decomposed and if we do not move them away from the pockets of population, they could turn into sources of disease.” Up to 35,000 homes and buildings in and around Yogyakarta were reduced to rubble.

Although the aid was arriving slower than some wished, the international community has rallied, pledging millions of dollars as well as medical relief teams, disaster experts and emergency supplies.

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