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Conditions Complicate Hunt for Quake Survivors



I'm Debbie Elliott.

The death toll following Saturday's earthquake in Indonesia now tops 4300. Some 20,000 are said to be injured and more than 100,000 people are homeless. NPR's Michael Sullivan visited some of the hardest hit areas and has this report.


There are parts of the provincial capital, Yogyakarta, where things appear to be almost normal. Yes, the hospitals are packed, but so is the KFC. There's power. There's water, and the tourist hotels that escaped major damage have both room service and ESPN.

Just a few miles to the south, it's a different story.

(Soundbite of rooster)

SULLIVAN: Motorcycle taxi driver Sartono(ph) lives or lived here in the village of Bum-Bum(ph) and says getting up earlier yesterday morning probably saved his life. When he and his wife felt the earthquake begin just before 6:00, he grabbed their grandson and ran out of the house. The rest of the family followed. Most of his neighbors, asleep in their beds, he says, did not.

He points to what's left of their houses and rattles off the toll.

Mr. SARTONO (Earthquake Survivor): (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: Two in that house, he says, pointing. Three in that one over there. Two more in the house next to it.

The list goes on. Only one house in this part of the village is still standing. Are there are many villages like this one where rescuers are still trying to dig out survivors.

When the quake happened, Sartono says, his first thought was of Ache and what happened there in December, 2004.

Mr. SARTONO: (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: I was afraid there might be a tsunami, he explains, so we all started running and we didn't stop until we reached the gas station four kilometers from here.

Sartono says he'll be sleeping outside tonight and would be even if his house hadn't been destroyed. He, like many survivors, is afraid of aftershocks and doesn't think sleeping inside is safe.

(Soundbite of crowd)

SULLIVAN: Volunteers have started to arrive in the affected area. Here in Bum-Bum's small clinic, two nurses from the island of Bali are cleaning and closing a woman's head wound. The power for the lights comes from a small generator. The doctor who runs the clinic, Sakaran(ph), says he's seen over 300 injured since yesterday morning, many too badly hurt for him to treat properly.

Dr. SAKARAN(ph): This is a small clinic. We have no sophisticated equipment.

SULLIVAN: Has there been any problem getting people to the hospitals?

Dr. SAKARAN: Problem, big problem. And the first time. There are three big hospitals in the center part of Yogyakarta and all of the hospital is quite full. Refuse the patients.

SULLIVAN: No beds?

Dr. SAKARAN: No beds.

SULLIVAN: That situation has now improved considerably, Sakaran says. The weather has not.

(Soundbite of rain)

SULLIVAN: In a makeshift shelter across the street from the clinic, the rain beats a steady tattoo on a plastic sheet thrown over a rope, a temporary shelter for more than 50 people who've lost their homes.

One man, a government worker named Mohammad, says he's seen no sign of the government so far. The only help here, he says, has come from volunteers. Still, he says, it could be worse.

MOHAMMAD: (Foreign language spoken)

SULLIVAN: At least we've got something over our heads, he says, something to keep us dry and out of the rain.

He's right. There are many here tonight making do with far less.

Michael Sullivan, NPR News. Bum-Bum, Java. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michael Sullivan
Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.