Thousands Still Missing In Wake Of Sumatra Quake

Last week's devastating earthquake in Sumatra, Indonesia, has left hundreds of people dead and thousands missing.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Torrential rains in Indonesia are making it even harder to reach victims of an earthquake. Trucks are moving through that rain, carrying emergency aid. They're trying to roll on roads clogged with debris.

Doualy Xaykaothao has been traveling along with them.

(Soundbite of vehicles and a siren)

DOUALY XAYKAOTHAO: It's a very muddy scene out here, not just from last night's hard rain but from last week's mudslides, triggered by the two quakes, wiping out whole villages in a valley about two hours from the city of Padang.

(Soundbite of a horn and vehicles)

XAYKAOTHAO: This morning, in Boni Village, Paramian(ph) District, the aid group, Save the Children, continued to send truckloads of emergency aid to families still living in desperate conditions.

Fifty-three-year-old Ciyer(ph) is waiting for a tent. She says her house has been completely destroyed. But worse, her mother was killed by falling debris.

CIYER: (Foreign language spoken)

XAYKAOTHAO: She wears a light colored headscarf and a colorful blue top. Her face is strong, her voice soft. She's visible exhausted but also traumatized by the loss of her mother.

CIYER: (Foreign language spoken)

XAYKAOTHAO: Right now, all she's thinking about is being able to erect a tent and having her children help with that.

XAYKAOTHAO: Mike Penrose is team leader of emergency response for Save the Children. He says their goal is to help as many as 165,000 earthquake survivors with boxes of aid.

Mr. MIKE PENROSE (Emergency Program Director, Save the Children): Within these boxes here, you'll be able to see there are tarpaulins and ground sheets, along with fixing ropes and pegs, so people can establish a temporary structure very quickly. These hygiene kits are designed for three children per kit. And inside them, you'll see are - is a waterproof box and it will have everything from toothpaste to washing powder, soap, and the general needs that children will need.

XAYKAOTHAO: No disease outbreaks have been reported by health officials, but lack of clean water, clean sanitation and electricity are still huge problems. Schools reopened in some areas, while in others schools were closed because their buildings were completely destroyed.

From Padang to Paramian, Mike Penrose of Save the Children says the earthquakes left some structures untouched, while others were completely flattened right next to each other.

Mr. PENROSE: People's concept of bad is dictated by what they've experienced in their own life. And when you see here, you know, 70, 80 percent of the houses with a lot of damage, you know, however much you prepare and however much effort you put into communicating about vulnerability of people, all you need to do is you show the pictures of people camped outside their houses in terrible circumstances.

(Soundbite of ocean waves)

XAYKAOTHAO: Closer to the beach, not far from a Muslim fishing village, 39-year-old Karteeni(ph) is distraught. No aid has reached her, her husband and six children.

KARTEENI: (Foreign language spoken)

XAYKAOTHAO: She says she lived with her sister in Bado Village when an entire wall in their home came falling down. Now they've got a blanket blocking the damaged wall and are surviving on instant noodles. She hopes aid will eventually get to her and her family. In their village of 320 homes, only 10 were not damaged. The good news is nobody was killed but everyone is in need.

Sjaak Seen is with the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team.

Mr. SJAAK SEEN (Deputy Leader, United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team): Today there will be an official announcement from the government that the search and rescue operation will end. We did all the search and rescue we could do in the last days. Fortunately we didn't find any live persons any more. And now we agreed that the search and rescue phase will be over.

XAYKAOTHAO: Seen says foreign disaster teams are packing up today and leaving soon, while others are staying.

Mr. SEEN: There is one team who has a medical mobile unit who is up north and helping people there. There is a French team who is providing - to setup tents and to provide food for the population. So most of the teams are leaving but some teams are prepared to do the humanitarian factor, and that means to help the population.

XAYKAOTHAO: The Indonesian government says officially 343 people are still missing, but the number of dead is still unknown.

For NPR News, I'm Doualy Xaykaothao in Padang, Sumatra.

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