Quake victims play waiting game

Nethy Dharma Somba, The Jakarta Post - Thousands of quake survivors cramped makeshift shelters in Manokwari on Monday as aftershocks continued to rock the region a day after two powerful earthquakes flattened hundreds of buildings and killed four people. "For the time being, there are 14,000 refugees," West Papua Governor Abraham Atururi said, adding that 17 camps had been set up for the displaced in the provincial capital of Manokwari.

The National Disaster Mitigation Body said the quake had killed two people, injured 35 others and damaged hundreds of buildings. As aid started to arrive Monday, hundreds of aftershocks continued to rattle the coastal city which had been hit by 7.6- and 7.5-magnitude quakes early Sunday, cutting power and prompting a brief tsunami warning. Atururi said a 10-year-old girl had been killed in the quakes. Hundreds of government and private buildings were also damaged, as well as seven bridges, two of which collapsed, he said.

Jayapura's Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) office said West Papua had been hit by 842 aftershocks over a period of 29 hours after the first quake, including 54 strong aftershocks all rated at more than 5 on the Richter scale. "It keeps on shaking," Papua BMG spokesman Mujahidin said.Evacuees erected tents along the road near their homes despite the nearby refugee centers.

"We will stay in the tents until the government issues an official statement stating the condition is safe," La Atin, 45, an evacuee from Wirsi village, told The Jakarta Post. Atin and 10 other families from Wirsi said they preferred to continue living in tents erected along the road because they feared more aftershocks and tsunamis would strike. "During the earthquake in 1996, our homes were swept away by tidal waves. The water at one point rose, prompting us to seek shelter on higher ground," said Atin, whose house is located near a beach. He left for the shelter with his family and their belongings, including mattresses, mats, stove and rice. "We have not received relief aid from the government but we can still eat because we brought rice from home," said Ria, Atin's wife.

Following Monday's aftershocks that rocked Manokwari city, Sorong city and Sorong regency, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono dispatched to the region four ministers armed with cash aid and supplies. The ministers are Social Minister Bachtiar Chamsyah, Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari, Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto and Transportation Minister Jusman Syafii Djamal to West Papua. The ministers brought with them Rp 1 billion (US$93,023) in cash, 600 tons of rice, medical supplies, an ambulance and a car to carry refugees to shelters. Bachtiar called on victims who had not received aid to remain patient, adding there was an insufficient number of relief workers in the region. He said he would dispatch a team to West Papua to survey and rebuild damaged homes. Buildings collapsed by the quakes, including the three-story Mutiara hotel, were closed off with police tape and guarded by soldiers.