Conditions Complicate Hunt for Quake Survivors

Aftershocks and torrential rains make the search for survivors even more difficult in the aftermath of a major earthquake in a densely populated area of Indonesia. More than 4,300 people are known to be dead.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

I'm Debbie Elliott.

The death toll following Saturday's earthquake in Indonesia now tops 4300. Some 20,000 are said to be injured and more than 100,000 people are homeless. NPR's Michael Sullivan visited some of the hardest hit areas and has this report.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN reporting:

There are parts of the provincial capital, Yogyakarta, where things appear to be almost normal. Yes, the hospitals are packed, but so is the KFC. There's power. There's water, and the tourist hotels that escaped major damage have both room service and ESPN.

Just a few miles to the south, it's a different story.

(Soundbite of rooster)

SULLIVAN: Motorcycle taxi driver Sartono(ph) lives or lived here in the village of Bum-Bum(ph) and says getting up earlier yesterday morning probably saved his life. When he and his wife felt the earthquake begin just before 6:00, he grabbed their grandson and ran out of the house. The rest of the family followed. Most of his neighbors, asleep in their beds, he says, did not.

He points to what's left of their houses and rattles off the toll.

Mr. SARTONO (Earthquake Survivor): (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: Two in that house, he says, pointing. Three in that one over there. Two more in the house next to it.

The list goes on. Only one house in this part of the village is still standing. Are there are many villages like this one where rescuers are still trying to dig out survivors.

When the quake happened, Sartono says, his first thought was of Ache and what happened there in December, 2004.

Mr. SARTONO: (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: I was afraid there might be a tsunami, he explains, so we all started running and we didn't stop until we reached the gas station four kilometers from here.

Sartono says he'll be sleeping outside tonight and would be even if his house hadn't been destroyed. He, like many survivors, is afraid of aftershocks and doesn't think sleeping inside is safe.

(Soundbite of crowd)

SULLIVAN: Volunteers have started to arrive in the affected area. Here in Bum-Bum's small clinic, two nurses from the island of Bali are cleaning and closing a woman's head wound. The power for the lights comes from a small generator. The doctor who runs the clinic, Sakaran(ph), says he's seen over 300 injured since yesterday morning, many too badly hurt for him to treat properly.

Dr. SAKARAN(ph): This is a small clinic. We have no sophisticated equipment.

SULLIVAN: Has there been any problem getting people to the hospitals?

Dr. SAKARAN: Problem, big problem. And the first time. There are three big hospitals in the center part of Yogyakarta and all of the hospital is quite full. Refuse the patients.

SULLIVAN: No beds?

Dr. SAKARAN: No beds.

SULLIVAN: That situation has now improved considerably, Sakaran says. The weather has not.

(Soundbite of rain)

SULLIVAN: In a makeshift shelter across the street from the clinic, the rain beats a steady tattoo on a plastic sheet thrown over a rope, a temporary shelter for more than 50 people who've lost their homes.

One man, a government worker named Mohammad, says he's seen no sign of the government so far. The only help here, he says, has come from volunteers. Still, he says, it could be worse.

MOHAMMAD: (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: At least we've got something over our heads, he says, something to keep us dry and out of the rain.

He's right. There are many here tonight making do with far less.

Michael Sullivan, NPR News. Bum-Bum, Java.

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Toll from Indonesian Earthquake Passes 4,300

BANTUL, Indonesia (AP) — Tens of thousands camped out for a second night Sunday in streets, cassava fields and the paths between rice paddies as the death toll from Indonesia's earthquake topped 4,300.

Rattled by hundreds of aftershocks, exhausted and grieving survivors scavenged for food and clothes in the brick, wood and tile rubble of their flattened houses. They pleaded for aid, which — despite worldwide pledges of millions of dollars and planes carrying medicine and food — seemed to be coming too slow.

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Torrential rain late Sunday added to the misery of some 200,000 people left homeless by Saturday's 6.3-magnitude quake, most of them living in makeshift shelters of plastic, canvas or cardboard. Thousands of wounded awaited treatment in hospitals overflowing with bloodied patients.

"So far no one from the government has shown any care for us," said villager Brojo Sukardi. "Please tell people to help us."

The quake on the island of Java was the fourth destructive temblor to hit Indonesia in the last 17 months, including the one that spawned the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami that killed 230,000 people across Asia, most of them on this Indian Ocean archipelago.

The country also is coping with the bird flu crisis, Islamic militant terror attacks, and the threat of eruption from Mount Merapi. The quake not only raised activity at the rumbling volcano but also damaged the 9th-century Prambanan temple, a U.N. world heritage site.

The disaster zone covered hundreds of square miles of mostly farming communities to the south of the ancient city of Yogyakarta. Power and telephone service was out Sunday across much of the region. As many as 450 aftershocks followed, the strongest a magnitude 5.2.

The worst devastation was in the Bantul district, which accounted for three-quarters of the deaths. One man dug his 5-year-old daughter out of the rubble of her bedroom only to have her die in a hospital awaiting treatment with hundreds of others.

"Her last words were 'Daddy, Daddy,'" said Poniran, who like many Indonesians uses only one name.

"I have to start my life from zero again."

In Peni, a hamlet on Bantul's southern outskirts, 20 residents searched for a neighbor after finding the bodies of his wife and three children. Villagers set up simple clinics despite shortages in medicine and equipment. Women cooked catfish from a nearby pond for dozens of people huddled under a large tent.

The U.N. World Food Program started distributing emergency food rations Sunday, with three trucks bringing high-energy biscuits to some of the worst-hit districts and two Singapore military cargo planes landing with doctors and medical supplies.

"I regret the slow distribution of aid," Idam Samawi, the Bantul district chief, told The Associated Press.

"Many government officials have no sensitivity to this. They work slowly under complicated bureaucracy, while survivors are racing against death and disease."

At least 4,332 people were killed, according to government figures, and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent said at least 200,000 people were left homeless. Most of the dead were buried within hours of the disaster, in line with Islamic tradition.

The earthquake hit at 5:54 a.m. as most people slept, caving in tile roofs and sending walls crashing down. Survivors screamed as they ran from their homes, some clutching bloodied children and the elderly.

The quake's epicenter was 50 miles south of the volcano, and activity increased soon after the temblor. A large burst spewed hot clouds and sent debris cascading some two miles down its western flank. No one was injured because nearby residents had been evacuated.

Officials said the famed 7th-century Borobudur Buddhist temple, one of Indonesia's famed tourist attractions, was not affected. But Prambanan, a spectacular Hindu temple to the southeast, suffered serious damage, with hundreds of stone carvings and blocks scattered around the ancient site.

It will be closed until archeologists can determine whether the foundation was damaged, Agus Waluyo, head of the Yogyakarta Archaeological Conservation Agency, said Sunday. Close to 1 million tourists visit the Borobudur and Prambanan temples every year.

International agencies and nations across Europe and Asia pledged millions of dollars in aid and prepared shipments of tents, blankets, generators, water purification equipment and other supplies. The United States promised $2.5 million in emergency aid; the European Union granted $3.8 million. Indonesia said late Sunday it would allocate $107 million to help rebuild over the next year.

Indonesia, the world's largest island chain, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the so-called "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin. It has 76 volcanos, the largest number in the world.

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