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Indonesia: UN Rushes Aid For 34,000 people


UN Rushes Aid For At Least 34,000 People Left Homeless By Indonesian Quake

At least 34,000 people have been left homeless by the earthquake that struck off northwest Indonesia on Monday, with the number expected to rise, and as relief supplies start arriving in large quantities medicine and medical equipment become high priorities as hospitals were damaged or destroyed, United Nations relief officials said today.

Up to 20,000 people are believed to have lost their homes in the south of Nias island, off Sumatra, where it is estimated that 25 per cent to 30 per cent of structures have been damaged or destroyed, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) spokesperson Elizabeth Byrs told a news briefing in Geneva. Latest reports put the death toll there at 600.

On neighbouring Simeulue island about 80 per cent of the buildings have been damaged, some villages had been completely destroyed, and the original estimate of 12,000 people displaced from their homes in the capital city of Sinabang is likely to rise, she said. Another 2,000 homeless have so far been reported from Singkil district on the Sumatran mainland, with the number likely to increase.

Ms. Byrs said that in view of the fact that the hospital in Simeulue was 40 per cent damaged and the one on Nias completely destroyed, medicine and medical equipment were of high priority, along with water purification systems and heavy machinery to remove the debris from the buildings that had been damaged.

Aid materials are arriving in large quantities but movement of goods to Nias has been delayed by an airplane which slipped off the end of the runway in Sibolga, the logistics hub on Sumatra for the island.

A UN World Food Programme (WFP) boat arrived today in Nias with 300 tons of aid, enough to feed 20,000 people for a month, with distribution set to begin this weekend. But challenges still lie ahead in delivering it to people outside the urban areas due to narrow, severely damaged roads.

WFP helicopters have also undertaken 156 medical evacuations from Nias to the hospital in Sibolga, and are now able to focus to a greater extent on bringing food to Simeulue.

OCHA is deploying a team to Simeulue to assess how best to coordinate efforts following the arrival of 620 tons of non-food items from non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Water purification systems are expected and a ship has already arrived with five bulldozers.

For its part, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has sent supplies to help ensure the health and hygiene of displaced people on Nias, particularly pregnant women, including 1,400 personal hygiene kits and 150 clean home delivery kits. A team of doctors has been dispatched to Nias to conduct a rapid needs assessment.

The region posing the biggest access problem at the moment is Singkil due to road damage and air and sea links are thus urgently needed. OCHA is exploring the possibility using helicopters.

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