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Relief Operations Swing into Gear in Quake-Stricken Central Java


Officials in Indonesia say more than 5,400 people have now died from Saturday's earthquake and the rush is on to get aid to the survivors. Relief operations are taking on added importance as a nearby volcano is threatening to erupt.

French, Japanese, and British aid groups landed planes at the Adisucipto airport in Yogyakarta Tuesday morning - wheeling crates, bags, and coolers mostly containing medical supplies.

Jacqueline Koch, a communications officer for the British group, Merlin, says they had flown in a ton of medicine and equipment Sunday, and more is on the way.

"We're working with mobile clinics and from what I understand those mobile clinics are also overwhelmed," she said. "So I think the need for medical aid is the greatest right now, I think that's the biggest issue."

There is also serious need for food and clean water. The U.N.'s World Food Program delivered 140 metric tons of food staples Monday, followed by a cargo plane with nearly 40 tons of tents, blankets, and water purifiers Tuesday.

W.F.P officials say at least 100,000 people are relying on emergency rations.

Yogyakarta airport operations director, Gatot Sugiantoro, says he is just glad to see help arrive.

"Because we still have a lot of victims, especially in Bantul, that's why I hope there will be a lot more of the aid coming in," he said.

The airport - which was damaged in the quake -resumed service Monday allowing 36 aid flights to land.

Yogyakarta is known throughout Indonesia as a cultural and educational center. Sugiantoro says the earthquake won't change that.

"In my opinion, yeah, I'm sure that in the future we will return to a normal situation again. But we have to be patient, because step by step we have to reconstruct again," he said. "And everybody, especially for the Yogyakarta people, you know, the culture is patience. Smiling, and then praying."

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is at the quake site to supervise relief operations. His government has set aside more than $100 million to help victims recover.

Meanwhile, about 20 kilometers away, the volcano at Mount Merapi has become more active since the quake, with scientists predicting an eruption could come at any time. While not expected to directly affect Yogyakarta, it would heavily tax relief services already struggling here in central Java.

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