Indonesia Quake Toll Expected to Pass 100

( [email protected] ) Sep 07, 2009 12:06 PM EDT

At least 100 people were likely killed by the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that rocked Indonesia's main island of Java last week, an official said Monday.

So far 74 deaths have been officially confirmed, Priyadi Kardono, a spokesman for Indonesia's Disaster Management Agency, told Agence France-Presse.

Another 34 people are believed to have been buried and likely dead under dirt and debris from the earthquake-triggered landslide in the West Java village of Cikangkareng, 80 miles south of the capital Jakarta, the government official added.

Meanwhile, over 88,000 people have been left homeless by the quake, which struck off the south coast of Java last Wednesday and badly damaged over 54,000 homes and buildings.

While the current death toll is relatively small compared to the Yogyakarta quake of 2006, which left around 6,000 people dead, the physical damages from last week's quake were almost as bad, according to World Vision's national director in Indonesia, Trihadi Saptoadi.

“The number of houses and other properties suffering from heavy, moderate and minor damages is actually almost as big as the Yogyakarta quake,” Saptoadi said Friday. “In several villages in Pangalengan sub-district alone, almost all of the houses have collapsed or are heavily damaged.”

Saptoadi added that nearly 30 school buildings, or almost 50 percent of all the schools in the Pengalengan sub-district, also suffered from serious damages.

Arshinta, an aid worker for the faith-based Yakkum Emergency Unit, said the earthquake brought back bad memories of the 2006 quake.

“If they (survivors) don’t have the trauma of seeing loved ones killed and houses damaged, they still remember 2006 very well,” Arshinta said, according to Action by Churches International, which Yakkum is a member of. “Houses can be rebuilt and NGOs can support people very quickly but of course trauma – particularly for people who have lost a husband, wife or child – takes a long time to get over.”

Indonesia, which sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, has been hit by a number of quake-related disasters, including a quake-triggered tsunami that hit southern Java in 2006, killing 596 people and displacing about 74,000.

In 2004, a massive quake off the coast of the island of Sumatra triggered a catastrophic tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people around Asia, including 168,000 in Indonesia.

Last week’s quake, which lasted for about 40 seconds, reportedly affected three West Java regions and was felt as far afield as neighboring Bali and Sumatra islands.

Yakkum worker Dita Novirani, who was in her office at the time of the quake, said the number of dead or injured would have been much higher had the quake struck at night.

Like many others, Novirani and her colleagues evacuated their building as the quake grew in intensity.

“From one area of Tasikmalaya, more than 3,000 houses are badly damaged and more than 6,000 houses have minor damage,” she reported. “A number of people are living under tens and tarpaulins in the available open spaces near their houses. Even though their houses are still intact they are afraid to go back.”

With thousands of survivors out on the streets, World Vision’s Saptoadi reported to the international community that there is not enough emergency aid available to meet the growing need.

“While the government and local organizations have started providing humanitarian assistance, many victims still have not received adequate food and other necessities,” he added.

According to ACT International, the Indonesian government’s natural disaster mitigation task force has sent materials to the areas of Bandung, Garat, Cianjur and Tasikmalaya. Emergency response and health teams have also been mobilized to affected areas with tents, kitchen equipment, clothes, blankets and mats.

The head of the Bandung health agency, meanwhile, has sent supplies of medicines, and medical personnel to some points of destruction.

ACT International members working in Indonesia and responding to the earthquake presently include Church World Service, Yayasan Tanggul Bencana di Indonesia, and Yakkum Emergency Unit. Also on site are international relief groups such as World Vision and Caritas Internationalis.