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Indonesian Earthquake Efforts Shift to Rebuilding Phase


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The emergency response efforts to the earthquake that hit the Indonesian island of Sumatra is shifting to recovery and rebuilding efforts. More than a thousand people died in last week's quake and hundreds more are missing. Over 180,000 buildings were severely damaged or destroyed. Here the clean up process is already beginning and earthquake survivors are assessing how and if they will rebuild.

Excavators are at work throughout the city of Padang, clearing away the wreckage caused by the earthquake.

Although rescue workers are still searching for missing people in collapsed buildings, they no longer expect to find anyone alive.

Hospitals are no longer overwhelmed with new quake victims. But patients are still being treated in tents because the hospitals themselves were damaged. Dr. Peter Sukman, a recent volunteer with Doctors Without Borders, says they need more permanent facilities.

"They have problems with the [medical] equipment and the places because most of the buildings are broke down," he said.

The United States military says it will build a temporary hospital in Padang within the next few weeks.

Many earthquake survivors in Padang are already beginning the rebuilding process. Kasriel Ruslin was able start clearing away the rubble that was once his office building, because he owns a construction company.

"The first time [thing], we must clean up and then we must build the temporary to our office so we can run our business," he said.

Although construction contractors will be in high demand, he estimates that it will take about five years for his business to again make a profit.

The safety of buildings that remain standing is a major concern for people here. Tania Razif owned a clothing shop in a four-story shopping mall, which was severely damaged. She says she will not reopen the store or ever go in the mall again.

"I'm scared because this building is very, very unsafe," she said.

In the nearby city of Pariaman, officials have asked Patrick Coulombel to assess whether their damaged city office building is safe to use. Coulombel is an architect with a volunteer organization called Emergency Architects, which conducts safety inspections after natural disasters.

In the city hall auditorium he notices that the walls are not straight.

"It is strange because the big wall is completely disconnected of the other wall and I think it could be a problem," said Coulombel.

He says shifted walls put greater stress on the ceiling and increase the risk that this room might collapse soon.

In another part of the building he is more optimistic. The structure is more sound and could be reoccupied in as early as two weeks with some simple clean up and repairs.

Overall he says much could be done in Indonesia to make future construction more earthquake resistant.

"Raise the level of education of architect in general. A lot of knowledge in the world but not enough connection between the Western countries and these kind of [developing] countries," he said.

But he cautions, not matter how strong you make a building, nature is stronger.

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