- Posted October 5, 2009 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Strong earthquakes in South Pacific
Indonesia Shifts From Rescue To Recovery...........
October 5, 2009 LUBUK LAWEK, Indonesia — Heavy machinery arrived here Monday, allowing search teams to reach deeper into villages devastated by a series of landslides caused by the earthquake last week. But after five days, hope of finding any more survivors had dimmed significantly. The delicate search for people gave way to large machines clawing away at wrecked buildings to find the dead. Skip to next paragraph Multimedia Photographs Slow Recovery After Indonesian Quake The New York Times Outside the city, in the district of Padang Pariaman, rescuers struggled to reach affected villages. More Photos » The Indonesian government said Monday that more than 600 people were confirmed killed from the 7.6-magnitude earthquake, which struck the western Indonesian island of Sumatra last Wednesday evening, with about 1,000 still missing. Other estimates put the numbers of dead and missing higher, including that of the United Nations, which has estimated about 1,100 dead. The Indonesian military and the police spent the day marching through thick mud, made wet by heavy overnight rain, searching for bodies. They placed stakes wherever they could smell decomposing flesh. Several backhoes, provided by a local Indonesian business, managed to plow their way into some of the most remote villages, digging up mud-covered debris and twisted trees. In the late morning, one crew unearthed the bodies of a pregnant woman and her two young daughters. Rescue workers also began digging out the bodies of about 40 people who had been swept away by mud as they were celebrating a wedding. A trickle of international aid organizations also began arriving at the scene. A small Japanese contingent brought sniffer dogs to help in the search for bodies. The team’s leader said they had come on their own after having trouble coordinating with the United Nations back in Padang, the capital of West Sumatra Province. “I don’t think the United Nations considers this area a priority because it is, well, gone,” said Kota Furukawa of the Japanese Rescue Association. “No one is going to find survivors here.” However, Winston Chang, the head of the United Nations’ office for disaster assessment and coordination, said he remained hopeful of finding survivors amid the debris from the mudslides. “There are a number of aid groups going up there, but they are going at different times,” he said. “We still think there is a possibility of finding survivors.” An official with the Indonesian Health Ministry estimated that more than 600 people could have been buried by the landslides. Stunned villagers, who were lucky enough to be away from their village at the time of the quake, returned to search for family members. In some cases, entire extended families had been lost. “I am broken-hearted. About 50 people from my family live here, and I haven’t been able to find them yet,” said Apuak, 29, who has been sleeping in a tent at a nearby village. “I hope more help comes to help me find them.” In one corner of the disaster site, a backhoe had dug a large grave intended for mass burials. International aid workers fanned out across the collection of villages making up Padang Pariaman on Sunday and Monday, setting up posts for distributing food, water and medical supplies along the main road. Aid groups, however, did not appear to have yet reached some of the winding back roads, where many residents who had lost their homes were sleeping beneath tarps. Children there lined the street desperately begging for donations from passing traffic. Emergency workers have so far focused most of their efforts on Padang, a city of about 900,000, where hundreds of large buildings collapsed, trapping countless people inside. Hundreds of residents in Padang jumped on motorbikes to witness the demolition equipment tear apart some of the city’s largest damaged buildings. For some, however, small moments of normalcy had begun to return. Several hundred children, for instance, went to school for the first time since the Wednesday quake, studying inside dozens of small schoolhouses set up by Unicef. Small businesses began to reopen as well, as did several of the city’s traditional markets, where residents busily bought and sold fruit, vegetables, fish and meat. At the end of an alleyway in the Chinese quarter, an area affected particularly badly by the quake, a group of men hovered over a cockfight. Around the corner a father and his young son giggled as they played a game together.
SOURCE THE NEW YORK TIMES