Troops boost relief effort in Indonesian quake zone

(Papua Story) MANOKWARI, Indonesia — Indonesian troops delivered aid Thursday to thousands of villagers left homeless by a powerful earthquake which killed two people and destroyed hundreds of homes.

The 7.1-magnitude quake rattled the northern coast of Papua province on Wednesday and left nine villages on Yapen island in ruins, officials said.

“The number of houses damaged by the quake could rise to more than 1,000 as we’re checking nine villages which were badly hit,” Disaster Management Agency spokesman Priyadi Kardono told AFP.

“The police, military, local government and volunteers are all on site to provide help to the victims.”

In Yapen’s main town of Serui, disaster response official Herry Heryadi said five tonnes of rice, 1,400 cartons of instant noodles and mineral water had been dispatched to the affected settlements.

“We also sent 108 tents as many houses have been damaged,” he said.

The relief effort was being hampered by the remoteness of the island, which is 3,300 kilometres (2,000 miles) east of Jakarta, officials said.

“So far there haven’t been any more reports of casualties but there are approximately 1,000 households whose condition is worrying,” Social Affairs Ministry secretary-general Chazali Situmorang said.

Yapen-based relief coordinator Yobert Huay said roads were cut and villages in mountain areas were isolated.

“We have to move quickly as survivors badly need food and tents,” he said.

On nearby Biak island, National Search and Rescue Board spokesman Sumpeno Yuwono said aid was being rushed to the devastated villages as fast as possible.

“The people living in the nine quake-affected villages are now isolated and desperately need food and medical assistance,” Sumpeno told state-run news agency Antara.

The quake struck off the southeast coast of Yapen just after midday, sparking widespread panic and triggering a tsunami alert which was lifted an hour later.

A church, a power station and government buildings were among the structures destroyed or damaged on Yapen, a coral-fringed island which has a mainly Melanesian population of about 70,000.

Thousands of people also fled their homes and workplaces in the West Papua provincial capital of Manokwari about 300 kilometres (180 miles) to the northwest of the epicentre.

Another person was killed when a 5.3-magnitude quake rattled West Sulawesi province on Wednesday.

Indonesia is dotted with volcanoes and flanked by major fault lines that produce thousands of earthquakes every year.

The 2004 Asian tsunami — triggered by a 9.3-magnitude quake off Sumatra — killed at least 168,000 people in Indonesia alone.

A 7.6-magnitude quake killed about 1,000 people in the port of Padang, western Sumatra, in September last year.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved

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