Wed, 02 Apr 2003

Manokwari quake victims remain homeless

Nethy Dharma Somba The Jakarta Post Jayapura, Papua

Despite its massive natural gas wealth, hundreds of residents of Manokwari, Papua are living in temporary homes made of palm leaves and children, when they are not sick, attend outdoor schools after a earthquake struck last October.

The quake, which measured 7.6 on the Richter scale and killed 15 people and injured dozens of others, left 300 families in Sabri village homeless. Hundreds of others in neighboring villages have received little support from the local and central governments.

The quake was followed by a tsunami, which swept through a number of houses in Wariab village on the regency's coast.

A number of survivors are living in homes made of palm leaves. Children have suffered from various diseases, including diarrhea, chest infections and skin diseases.

Selfianus Mandatjan, one of the victims from Sabri, lives in a makeshift tent with his pregnant wife, two children, his mother and a nephew.

"We've been here for five months with frequent ailments, so all we want from the government are construction materials to build a house," Selfianus told The Jakarta Post recently.

He said the evacuees in Sabri had received humanitarian aid once. Since then they had survived on sweet potatoes, bananas and other fruit from their farmland.

Agus Saruni, who lived with 14 other families in Wariab before the quake but now stays at Lapangan Empat, five kilometers from Sabri, appealed to the local administration to provide assistance to help the villagers build homes.

"We can meet our daily needs by growing vegetables and from fishing. After five months, we hope the government will soon supply construction materials, as we've heard that about Rp 1 billion in aid money was set aside for this purpose."

More than one month after the tremor, seven Cabinet ministers and governor Jap Salossa visited the area to give Rp 4 billion to help the victims. However, the local administration used the funds to repair damaged infrastructure such as roads, churches and school buildings.

Manokwari Regent Dominggus Mandacan said it had used Rp 3 billion of the funds to repair damaged roads and bridges in the districts of Anggi, Sururey, Ransiki and Oransbari.

"Of the remaining Rp 1 billion, Rp 50 million has been delivered in food aid and Rp 950 million is still being held to purchase construction materials to be distributed to the victims, pending the distribution of other financial aid from the provincial administration."

Mandacan added that as the tremors were continuing, people were still reluctant to build permanent settlements, whereas the reconstruction of all damaged facilities would need Rp 116 billion.

In the meantime, children's education also proceeds under emergency conditions. Three secondary school buildings in Ransiki collapsed in the disaster, forcing students to learn in the open. They flee if they feel the earth shake.

"We have no choice, the children are gripped by the trauma. Even minor tremors are enough to send them running back home," said Adriana Noya, who has taught for 17 years in Ransiki.

Papua, rich in gold and oil resources, has allocated Rp 6 trillion from its 2003 budget to finance development programs.