Wed, 14 Jun 2000

State-owned buildings among quake wreckage

JAKARTA (JP): The earthquake and its aftershocks in Bengkulu have ruined 19 out of 69 state buildings, the Ministry of Settlement and Territorial Development announced on Tuesday.

A press statement released by the ministry said that the structures included the provincial legislative building, the Garuda Mas Provincial Military Command headquarters, the province's Ministry of Health office and the M. Yunus state hospital.

The Bengkulu provincial public works office also said the local grand mosque was among buildings seriously damaged in the disaster.

The office added that some 16,000 hectares of rice fields are facing drought as the quake also affected irrigation facilities in the province. Around Rp 12 billion is needed to repair the irrigation system, Antara quoted the office as stating.

Road and bridge reconstruction will cost the province at least Rp 18.7 billion and another Rp 2.7 billion is needed to repair housing, resettlement and water systems, the office report said.

An earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale shook the Sumatra province on June 4, leaving at least 90 killed and hundreds of others injured. No less than 1,827 aftershocks have aroused fear among residents and caused more damages.

But an official of the province's Meteorology and Geophysics office, M. Riadi, said on Monday the flurry of aftershocks would completely stop 25 days after the initial quake.

"I can say that within 25 days there will be no more tremors. However anything can happen because earthquake is an unpredictable phenomenon," Riadi said after briefing Minister of Transportation Agum Gumelar during a visit to the province.

"Previously there were at least eight aftershocks per hour, but now it has dropped to three."

On Monday morning, people rushed out of their tents and homes in panic following two aftershocks measuring between 4.5 and six on the Richter scale.

The first tremor occurred at 5:17 a.m., while the second erupted 11 minutes later. Their epicenter was located about 299 kilometers southwest of Bengkulu, below the Indian Ocean.

Sports officials, meanwhile, expressed fear that the natural disaster would play havoc on the performance of the province's athletes who will take part in the 15th National Games (PON) in Surabaya next week.

An executive of the provincial sports council, Iskandar Ramis, said the athletes' training center had been destroyed and many of his athletes lost their homes.

"They also cannot rest at night, because many of them have to sleep under tents," Iskandar complained, as quoted by Antara.

Exports from the province will probably return to normal within two months, as Baai port was also heavily damaged.

Head of Baai Port, Syarif Usman, said exports of coal, coffee and rubber were seriously affected because big ships could not berth.

The government needs at least Rp 8 billion (about US$920,000) to repair it. The repairs will take about two months.

"We hope the construction will start soon," said Syarif. (prb)