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NZ relief worker reports from Java

09 June 2006

Indonesian Earthquake:
New Zealand relief worker reports from Java

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A New Zealand relief worker working for ChildFund in earthquake ravaged Java says the organisation is doing its best to evacuate the last of its sponsored children and their families out of the danger zone.

Java remains on a high state of alert and Waiheke Island resident Renzo Benfatto has now been in Java for more than a week, leading ChildFund’s emergency team as they assess the impact of this disaster on thousands of children in the region and respond to their immediate needs.

Speaking from a makeshift shelter outside the ChildFund base after another aftershock had caused the team to evacuate, Renzo says, “There are regular eruptions from the mountain – they are not vertical and they are very irregular. It depends on which way the lava flows as to the seriousness of the event. When there is an eruption, a siren sounds and the nearby villages have 10 minutes to evacuate. The threat of disaster is constant.” Only yesterday the team experienced a small localised volcanic eruption from Mt Merapi and another significant earthquake. Renzo says the region has suffered more than 850 aftershocks since the quake struck, adding to children’s fear of buildings. The sound of the emergency siren is now very familiar.

ChildFund New Zealand has two projects in the extreme danger zone around the volcano. These are the Marsudi Siwi Project, where two thirds of these families have been evacuated to a safe place. The other project is the Citra Kasihi Project and almost all these families have been safely evacuated. Renzo says, “We are now focused on assisting the remaining families to evacuate and on establishing alternative base camps.”

“We estimate there are around 6,000 people living in villages close to Mt Merapi – at night they usually sleep in the surrounding camps and in the day time they return to the villages to tidy up the debris and after effects of the earthquakes. Because of the heavy ash rains, we are providing masks, emergency lamps and plastic covers for water containers to prevent contamination. We are also supplying sleeping mattresses, blankets, school supplies, soaps and detergents. Food such as instant noodles, snacks and drinking water is also being made available, particularly for the children.”

ChildFund operates on-going projects in many of the communities affected by the earthquake in Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces. As part of its operations, ChildFund has set up scores of Child Centred Spaces as safe havens for children while their parents rebuild their homes.

The devastating earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 hit the region on May 27 killing more than 5000 people, injuring 30,000 and leaving more than 131,000 homes destroyed. The humanitarian need in the area is still great. Donations are still urgently needed to support the relief effort.

Donations can be made by freephone 0800 223 111 or www.childfund.org.nz


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