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Aceh quake victims frustrated at lack of help

Jakarta Globe - July 5, 2013

Nurdin Hasan, Banda Aceh – A rescue team involving the military, police and volunteers is struggling through rain and rubble to search for bodies and deliver aid, which survivors of Tuesday's deadly earthquake in Aceh say isn't coming soon enough.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) data confirms that 30 people – 12 in Bener Meriah and 18 in Central Aceh – were killed during the 6.2-magnitude earthquake.

Other reports said that the death toll had risen to 42 people as of Wednesday evening.

Fatchul Hadi, BNPB secretary, said that access to several villages had been cut off due to landslides thus making the rescue efforts and aid distribution difficult.

"This is a hill area and the land is unstable. Access to several villages in Ketol [subdistrict] were cut off due to landslides," Fatchul told the Jakarta Globe.

"The rains that fall in this area are also slowing down the search process for victims and distribution of aid," he added.

Fatchul said that heavy equipment has been deployed to reach the isolated villages, adding that the BNPB has set up a relief post where aid is pooled and distributed to the worst-hit areas.

Army Lt. Col. Budi Hartono, head of the military's evacuation team in Blang Mancung, said that the areas were still prone to landslides.

"The land is very unstable and prone to landslides. We cannot take heavy equipment there yet," he said.

Baktiar Gayo, a youth figure in Central Aceh, feared that it could take a long time before the team would be able to reach the villages, as they might have to make emergency road repairs and work hard to continue the rescue operations.

Baktiar said that the nine villages which were isolated after the quake are located in a valley that was flanked by hills.

"Nine people were buried in a landslide in Bah village. The victims were detected because we used BNPB's special detector device but they haven't been evacuated," Budi told reporters on Wednesday night.

Fakhrizan Joely, a volunteer from Aceh Adventure who was able to reach Bah village, said that almost 90 percent of the houses there were destroyed and could no longer be used.

"The route that we took to Bah village was narrow and the temperature here is very cold," said Fakhrizan, adding that he still has no data on the number of victims in the village.

Ketol head Muhammad Saleh said that Serempah village, which neighbors Bah, was also in a very bad shape because the quake divided the village in two. He said half the village had sunk and the Peusangan river overflowed.

"Many of the people's houses sank when the quake occurred. The river overflowed and washed away houses," said Saleh, adding that 200 households were located in Serempah village.

Residents from several subdistricts in Bener Meriah and Central Aceh had complained about the slow distribution of food and tents.

Muhammad Adam, secretary of Wih Porak village in Silih Nara subdistrict, Central Aceh, said that none of the 120 households in the village had received help.

Yani, a resident of Kute Kering village in Silih Nara, said that her village was also without aid.

"Many of the houses in Kute Kering are badly damaged and cannot be used," Yani said.

Residents in Celala subdistrict also claimed they have not received aid and that they had to sleep in the open and cold air, under the rain because their houses were badly damaged.

"The residents are worried because they have started to rely on neighbors who still had food to survive," said Ali Amran, a social worker.

Rohani, a resident of Seloen village, Kuta Panang subdistrict, said many vehicles that carried food and tents passed their village but they were ignored.

"Vehicles carrying logistics passed our village but they didn't provide us with any aid. All aid was supplied to Blang Mancung," he said.

Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi said that an integrated medical team has been deployed to quake hit areas and that she has not received any reports of personnel shortages.

Nafsiah said that quake victims are most desperate for medical assistance.

"I get reports every day and the number of medical personnel there is enough," said Nafsiah on Thursday.

Nafsiah also said that the government would send psychologists from Medan to help victims overcome their trauma.

"Many remain frightened. That will be with psychologists and counselors," Nafsiah said.

The Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) had deployed a team of seven medical workers, including orthopedists to Bener Meriah to help the quake victims on Thursday.

"PMI sent seven people comprising of medical workers, water and sanitation specialist and staff," said Tia Kurniawan, PMI's disaster mitigation sub-division head in Jakarta.

"They were sent from Jakarta and will stay in Bener Meriah for 10 days and that can be extended if required," she said.