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Scope of destruction in Indonesia remains unclear JAKARTA - It is called Mecca's Veranda because for centuries, Aceh province's bustling ports have been the final embarkation point for devout Indonesian Muslims bound for the hajj, the mandatory pilgrimage all Muslims are expected to make at least once. Today, vast swaths of the rugged province on the northern tip of Sumatra have disappeared beneath mountains of mud left by Sunday's tsunami. Giant waves demolished homes and businesses on the Indonesian island and claimed the lives of thousands.
The death toll continues to rise. About 10,000 people in the west coast town of Muelaboh were feared dead. The toll in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, was estimated at 9,000. The full scope of the devastation remains unclear. Three days after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake off Sumatra's west coast and the ensuing tsunami, several remote coastal towns and villages in Aceh (AH-chay) province had not reported in.
The damage along the length of the Trans-Sumatran Highway, which threads its way through towns along the east coast parallel to the Strait of Malacca, starts in tiny shrimp-farming communities 50 miles south of Lhokseumawe. In each town, the domes of mosques can be seen rising above tent cities put up by Indonesia's military for tsunami survivors.
Survivors camping on the grounds of mosques and schools south of Lhokseumawe, a sprawling refinery town, told similar stories of fleeing ahead of waters that provide a livelihood for thousands of fishermen. Outside a glittering green-domed mosque in Nibong, Maulina, 29, described her panicked flight. "I heard my neighbors screaming that the water was coming about 15 minutes after the earthquake struck and saw them running by my windows," said Maulina, who like many Indonesians uses one name. "All I could do was grab my two children and run. We didn't stop until we arrived here."
According to the Ministry of Health, the death toll in Lhokseumawe was about 1,000. Thick mud littered with garbage and fishing lines filled homes up to a mile from the high-water mark along the coast. Areas that, through fate or quirks of topography, were spared the deluge stood in sharp contrast to debris-strewn stretches hit by the waters. Verdant green rice paddies extended for miles from the west side of the Trans-Sumatran Highway. Local farmers could be seen planting a short distance behind schools overflowing with the dispossessed.
The army-run Lampangan Hiraq tent city on the grounds of the cement skeleton of a new mosque housed more than 1,200 Pusung residents. Dozens of khaki army tents provided some relief from the 95-degree heat. Bottled water, food and medical services were abundant, in contrast to reports that other areas, especially those in the remote northern tip of Aceh province, were in dire need of aid. Officials issued an urgent warning of imminent starvation in Meulaboh, a town of 40,000. Kalla, the vice president, flew over the town Tuesday. He reported there were no signs of life and ordered a warship to go there to help.
Michael Enquist, head of the United Nations Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told the AFP news service that fuel shortages were hindering relief efforts. Even if trucks had enough fuel to make the trip north, he said, there was no fuel for the return trip. The first U.N. aircraft with emergency provisions was due in Banda Aceh early today. Two Australian military planes with supplies arrived Tuesday. Two more were expected. The U.N. and Australian relief workers are among the first international groups to visit the region in more than a year. Separatists have battled Indonesian government forces for 30 years. Indonesia's military launched an offensive and sealed the region after talks broke down in 2003.
Authorities have reopened the province and reassigned the military to the relief effort. The rebels pledged to lay down their weapons and focus on aiding victims. Capt. Gupuh, an Indonesian army officer at the Lampangan Hiraq tent city, said the locals were "very fortunate the Indonesian armed forces are trained to deal with any kind of emergency like this." His men are administering the camp with the Indonesian Red Cross. "We are well organized in this area, but it is not the same in the outlying areas," Gupuh said. "In some places, it is all being left to local volunteers."

Posted in Earthquake @ 29 December 2004 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink lists all earthquakes that occur in Indonesia. For your convenience we display them in a list and a Google Map. It is as accurate and recent as you can imagine as we check for updates every few minutes. If an earthquake occurs in Indonesia, this is the place to check it out in the first place.

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