Plea for quake aid as bodies rot in heat

PADANG: Quake-hit Indonesia appealed for foreign aid today as the stench of decomposing bodies hung over wrecked buildings where overwhelmed rescuers were scrabbling for survivors.

In the city of Padang, which was devastated by Wednesday’s 7.6-magnitude earthquake, emergency teams faced a third night of work to pull bodies from ruins that have claimed the lives of at least 1,100 people.

“Our main problem is that there are a lot of victims still trapped in the rubble. We are struggling to pull them out,” Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari told


“We need help from foreign countries for evacuation efforts. We need them to provide skilled rescuers with equipment,” she said, also appealing for medics to treat badly

injured victims, many with broken bones.

Homeless survivors in the coastal city have spent two nights sleeping out in the open and are hungry, frightened and falling victim to profiteers who have jacked up prices of water and other essentials.

Several countries have pledged aid and sent emergency teams to the area, but efforts to organise a full-scale rescue operation are being hampered by blocked roads, broken power lines, and patchy communication networks.

The Red Cross in Geneva said aerial photos suggested the disaster zone extended much further than had previous been known — stretching far across West Sumatra, with some villages entirely


“The feedback is that Padang city and environs are bad, but once you go outside into the surrounding rural areas, the situation is very seriously grave,” said Christine South of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Society.

“There was talk of complete devastation of some villages, 100 per cent devastation, and 50 per cent in others,” she added. Rescuers labouring in the tropical heat in Padang said they lacked essential heavy machinery like cutting equipment and excavators.

“We don’t have proper equipment. We don’t even have dogs,” said Suryadi Soedarmo, a surgeon from an emergency ambulance service in the capital Jakarta who arrived with 10 experts trained to enter collapsed structures.

The United Nations said that 1,100 have died in the disaster. The government put the death toll at 777 but has said it expects the figure to go much higher. One lucky survivor was 20-year-old Ratna Kurnia Sari, who was pulled limp and covered in dust from the ruins of a college after spending more than 40 hours buried beneath rubble. Another woman, 20-year-old Nopa Labianawho, remained pinned under a mountain of concrete there, shouting frantically to rescue workers and urging them to come to her aid.

Almost all the buildings in Padang are damaged and roughly a quarter are ruined, presenting this city of one million people with a colossal rebuilding task.