Mon, 13 Jun 1994

Some wave victims are still waiting for disaster relief

JAKARTA (JP): As massive relief aid poured to East Java for the victims of this month's devastating tidal waves, reports began to emerge that some of the intended recipients were left hungry because food is not reaching them fast enough.

The reports, which have already raised concerns among officials in Jakarta, prompted Coordinating Minister of People's Welfare Azwar Anas to issue a stern warning on Friday. The statement cautioned people not to tamper with or embezzle the huge aid relief that was coming in.

"Don't even think about trying to take it, not even for one cent," Azwar said. "The aid is God's mandate and has to be given intact."

The Antara news agency reported that several survivors of the tidal waves in the Banyuwangi regency were complaining about the slow distribution of food, saying that they were only getting fed once a day.

The report suggested that the food supplies are piling up in the regency town of Banyuwangi but they are not being distributed fast enough to the distant villages where most of the victims live.

"Sometimes, we have to beg for food from the officers," one survivor told Antara.

Another survivor, Abdul Manan, 32, said he found it degrading to beg for food and go through the arduous bureaucratic procedures. He also resented being passed off from one official to another.

Tidal waves swept away many fishing villages along the southeastern coast of East Java on June 3, leaving countless incidents of destruction in its wake.

The East Java provincial government said a total of 223 people were killed in the disaster, with 204 in the Banyuwangi regency alone. Some 22 people are still reported as missing and about 400 people were still undergoing medical treatment over the weekend.

The destruction of property was just as extensive. At least 1,330 houses were damaged and hundreds of boats -- the fishermen's main form of earning income -- either vanished or were damaged beyond repair.

This is the worst natural disaster to hit Indonesia since tidal waves, combined with a powerful earthquake, killed over 2,000 people in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara, in December of 1992.

The relief operation after the Flores disaster, with aid supplied by domestic and foreign sources, was also haunted by rumors that money had been embezzled.

Similar, disconcerting reports were also heard during the relief operation for the victims of the massive earthquake in Liwa, Lampung, which killed some 200 people in February.

Meanwhile, aid and pledges of aid continued to pour in from various sources during the weekend.

Salim Group

The Salim Group, Indonesia's largest business conglomerate which is owned by tycoon Sudomo Salim (Liem Sioe Liong), pledged Rp 1 billion (US$476,000) to the government.

The Japanese government announced it was extending Rp 300 million ($142,000) worth of aid under its emergency humanitarian assistance program, its embassy in Jakarta said.

The aid will include blankets, tents, and portable power generators which will be delivered by the Japan International Cooperation Agency from its stockyard in Singapore.

Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Allan Taylor presented a check on Friday to Minister of Social Services Endang Kusuma Inten Soeweno, amounting to about $15,000. Australia is considering providing additional funds of about $75,000 for reconstruction, the embassy said.

A number of newspaper publications in Jakarta, including Kompas and Suara Pembaruan, have also started cash collections for the victims of the tidal waves.

The local network TVRI in Palembang, South Sumatra, began to receive contributions for the victims on Friday from viewers.

An official of the International Red Cross committee meanwhile is in Banyuwangi to determine what further assistance the organization will provide, Antara said.

Earling B. Anderson, the Red Cross representative, said he was also looking at the psychological impact of the disaster on the victims.

Meanwhile, there were reports that President Soeharto might be visiting the stricken areas in Banyuwangi today.

The relief operation proceeded under tension as the Banyuwangi area was shaken almost continuously by tremors.

The local meteorology and geophysics station said by in the week following the tidal waves, it recorded 1,723 tremors. (05)