Indonesia faces huge rebuilding job
By CHRIS BRUMMITT, Associated Press Writer Fri Jun 2, 2:23 PM ET
TELAN, Indonesia - It is 7:30 a.m., and Soliman and his wife are hard at work, digging through the rubble of their quake-destroyed house and neatly stacking reusable bricks, tiles and wooden posts.
"This is all we can do," Soliman said. "We cannot stay in that shack forever," he added, pointing to a hastily assembled shelter made from blue tarpaulin and bits of wood.
While aid agencies say treating the injured and feeding survivors remain the top priorities after Saturday's earthquake, attention is also turning to the next challenge: rebuilding 130,000 homes and providing shelter for the homeless in the meantime.
The task comes as the government is already engaged in a massive rebuilding project in Aceh province, where some 80,000 houses are still needed for survivors of the December 2004 tsunami.
Most of the homeless in Aceh are staying in military-style barracks constructed in the weeks after the killer waves swept entire villages out to sea.
United Nations and the government say they do not favor barracks or large refugee camps to house the estimated 500,000 people made homeless by the latest disaster, which struck the heart of Java Island.
Instead, officials say they plan to give survivors materials to make shelters near their former homes, including toilets and showers. Officials will also deliver food and water.
"It is preferable to give them cash, building materials and tools so that they can work producing their own shelter," said Charlie Higgins, the head of the U.N. mission here. "There are not going to be, in this case, large camps established where people will be living."
Most of the earthquake survivors are now living in leaky, cramped shelters built from corrugated iron or tarpaulin.
The government says it managed to build around 20,000 homes in Aceh province over the last year, but aid workers say work after the quake should be much easier.
Aceh is more challenging because the waves swept away roads, bridges and other infrastructure, and left the local government in tatters. Most houses were washed away, whereas in Java many of the building materials will be reusable.
On Friday, the United Nations said $100 million was urgently required over the next six months to address the most immediate needs, and half of that money should go toward housing.
Very few of those who lost homes had any insurance.
The government has promised to give owners of destroyed houses $3,232 to rebuild, but many survivors doubt all the cash will reach them, given Indonesia's notoriously corrupt government officials.
"I worry if it goes through many hands, it will end up getting siphoned off," said Titi, another Telan resident who, like Soliman, uses only one name.
Soliman, a builder, estimated $3,232 would be enough to rebuild his home. Others with no building skills said they would need more to hire skilled craftsmen.
"I am ready to start tomorrow," said Soliman.
The early signs are that the government is committed to rebuilding.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono flew to the disaster zone the day the quake struck, and when he left Tuesday, he was immediately replaced by his deputy.
Failure to rebuild quickly could hurt both men in elections scheduled for 2009 because Java is the country's most populated island and home to its dominant ethnic group.
Other natural disasters in Indonesia in recent years have generally struck sparsely populated areas in remote regions of the archipelago, away from the national media and politicians.
Winatala, another victim, says government help cannot come quickly enough.
The 43-year-old saved a dollar a day for 10 years from his job selling chicken noodles to gradually build his house on inherited land. Saturday's quake pounded the home into rubble within less than a minute.
He now lives with his wife and three children in a tiny shack.
"I have no savings to fall back on," he said, as his 4-year-old daughter played with a teddy bear where his living room once stood. "I can't ask friends or family to help out because their houses were also destroyed."