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Indonesian Hospitals Struggle to Help Quake Victims

  • Chad Bouchard

Medical and evacuation centers in Central Java are overflowing with people as volunteers and aid organizations intensify relief efforts following Saturday's massive earthquake. The quake killed more than 5,100 people and left some 200,000 others homeless.

At the Panembahan Senopati Hospital, hundreds of patients wait on straw mats and blankets for treatment. Surgical procedures such as setting bones and stitching wounds are being carried out in the open air, while vanloads of injured people continue to pour in from rural areas.

Hospital coordinator Daburidiah says medical supplies are running short, and more patients are on the way.

He says right now they need tools for operations, metal plates and pins for broken bones, as well as sutures, antibiotics and medication for tetanus. All of these are in short supply, he adds, because most people here have suffered serious fractures.

Daburidiah says that the number of patients at the hospital has declined somewhat since Sunday. Thirty-two died during the night. Some are going back to their villages although most of the homes, even the ones still standing, are too dangerous to live in.

Nearly every building in Bantul, Yogyakarta's southern district, was shaken to rubble by Saturday's earthquake.

Sunaro, a patient at the hospital, lies on a blanket with a broken leg and recently dressed head wounds. He says he was injured trying to recover belongings from the ruins of his house.

He says he fled with his family when the quake struck Saturday. But he went back the next day and a piece of the doorway fell on his leg. He says he's lucky, because he was able to make it to the hospital on his own.

On the main road through Bantul, hundreds of people beg for food, holding out empty boxes. One of them, 18-year old Desid, says her family is depending on donations from people driving by.

She says if someone gives them food, they can eat, as they did this morning. But they don't have anything right now. The earthquake took everything, she says - the schools and everything else.

Relief agencies estimate that 200 thousand people were made homeless by the temblor.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has set up an office in the area to oversee recovery efforts, and has visited several sites in the southern part of the city. He appealed Sunday to the international community for humanitarian aid, and pledged one trillion rupiah, or more than $100 million, for reconstruction.

Relief organizations Monday distributed truckloads of supplies. The Red Cross and Red Crescent delivered tents for 10,000 homeless. And the World Food Program says it is distributing 100 metric tons of food to hospitals and disaster relief centers in the area.

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