Monday, May 29, 2006

Race against time in Java quake

BBC News online...

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Injured earthquake victim

The task of helping survivors of Saturday's earthquake on the Indonesian island of Java is "a race against the clock", the United Nations has warned.

Emergency workers and supplies are arriving, but the UN's top relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland told the BBC the task was "enormous".

Driving rain is hampering relief work after the disaster which killed at least 4,295 people and injured 20,000.

And activity at nearby erupting volcano Mount Merapi is said to have increased.

UN aid agencies have met in Geneva to plan relief for the region which was struck by a quake measuring 6.3 on Saturday morning.

Unicef, the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization and the International Red Cross have begun distributing aid but say much more will be needed.

Seeking shelter

Buildings in and around Yogyakarta were flattened leaving about 130,000 people homeless, according to Unicef.

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Heavy rain has forced some to return to their destroyed houses in search of some kind of shelter despite the threat of further building collapses.

The quake probably affected "hundreds of thousands", Mr Egeland told the BBC's World Today programme.

In an interview with CNN, the UN relief co-ordinator added that he expected relief to reach people faster than after the 2004 tsunami disaster, which killed at least 130,000 in the western province of Aceh.

"This time I think it's going to be easier because Java is not as remote as Aceh," he said.

Governors of the areas hit by the quake have put the death toll at 4,295 in contrast to earlier estimates of about 5,000.

[Medical] operations are performed on the floor, atop bamboo mats or mattresses
Kristy, Yogyakarta

Many bodies are still thought to be trapped under debris and rescuers say the odds of finding survivors are slim.

Some two-thirds of the victims died in Bantul, a town south of the ancient royal city of Yogyakarta.

Aid agencies and the military are working together to get aid to surrounding towns and villages.

Hospitals are overwhelmed and hundreds of victims are having to be treated outdoors.

One BBC News website reader in Yogyakarta, Kirsty, said she had visited a hospital and witnessed operations being performed "on the floor, atop bamboo mats or mattresses".

Temple damaged

Thousands of people have been evacuated from around Mount Merapi, close to Yogyakarta, where volcanologists report a three-fold increase in activity since the quake.

A guard surveys the damage at Prambanan temple
Columns crashed to the ground at the Prambanan temple
Subandriyo, chief of the Merapi volcanology and monitoring office, said there was a chance of a "big eruption".

Indonesia is in a zone known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity.

The BBC's Rachel Harvey reports from Yogyakarta that some of the relief planned for an imminent volcanic eruption has been diverted to deal with the quake.

Yogyakarta is the former Javanese royal capital and home to historic temples and palaces.

Intricate carved reliefs in its renowned Prambanan Hindu temple were sent crashing to the ground by the quake, which undid years of restoration.

However, the 7th Century Borobudur Buddhist temple survived intact.

map
Located at borders of several tectonic plates
90% of the world's earthquakes occur along it
Also zone of frequent volcanic activity


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Eruption of Mount Merapi still Possible - Yahoo News

By IRWAN FIRDAUS, Associated Press Writer

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia - Villagers living on Mount Merapi's slopes watched as it spit out searing clouds of smoke and lava Monday amid warnings a large eruption was still possible in the aftermath of Indonesia's powerful earthquake.

Activity the volcano has increased since Saturday's earthquake, with hot clouds spewed out an average of 150 times a day, compared with 50 times before, said Subandriyo, chief of the Merapi volcanology and monitoring office.

The rumbling volcano expelled lava and hot clouds Monday morning, sending debris tumbling 2 1/2 miles down the mountain, he said.

"The earthquake has caused instability in the lava dome," said Subandriyo, who like many Indonesians uses only one name. "There is still a chance that a big eruption might occur."

Mount Merapi, which means "Fire Mountain," is one of the world's most active volcanos and has erupted scores of times in the last 200 years, often with deadly results.

The 9,800-foot volcano has been rumbling and spewing smoke and lava for weeks. Residents in the danger zone were ordered to evacuate earlier this month, but scores have remained, and say its latest activity has done little to change their minds.

"For us, life is going on as usual. This morning I tended the crops, some corn plants, and now I'm hauling grass to feed my cows," said Bardi as he headed down the mountain with a mound of grass. "I'm not afraid of Merapi."

Chew Soon Hoe, an associate professor of engineering geology at the National University of Singapore, said Merapi's renewed activity and the earthquake are related. Both are in the same subduction zone — the area where one tectonic plate slides under another plate — along a boundary between the Euro-Asia plate and the India-Australia plate, he said.

"This ocean plate ... is the cause of the recent earthquake and volcanic activity in Indonesia," Chew said. "Because it is very near, the energy released by the quake will accelerate or perturb the activity of the volcano."

David Booth, a seismologist with the British Geological Survey, disagreed, saying the quake would not necessarily cause the volcano to erupt. He said the plates that shifted to cause the earthquake did not necessarily open cracks in the surface that would be needed to cause a volcanic eruption.

"Volcanoes are all about creating pathways for the magma to move up to the surface," Booth said in a telephone interview. "It's like a lemonade bottle having been shaken. There is enormous pressure there. But if there isn't a pathway to the surface, then the pressure will stay contained."

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Associated Press writers Tanalee Smith in Singapore and Mike Casey in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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