The central government had prepared Rp 250 billion ($26 million) dollars in cash aid to help survivors of the Padang earthquake, while the Armed Forces and National Police dispatched more than 1,500 personnel to the disaster zone to help in rescue and evacuation efforts, officials said on Thursday.
The response came as Padang Mayor Fauzi Bahar issued a radio appeal for assistance, calling for help to evacuate the dead and wounded from the disaster area.
“We are overwhelmed with victims and a lack of clean water, electricity and telecommunications,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “We really need help.”
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the emergency funds would be enough for two months of relief operations in the area of Wednesday’s 7.6-magnitude quake, which reduced parts of Padang to rubble and extensively damaged surrounding areas in West Sumatra.
The 7.6-magnitude quake could hurt the economy of Indonesia, which has been one of the few shining stars of the global economic crisis, as well as the state budget, she said.
“It will certainly have an effect as Padang and the surrounding areas are areas that have potential to contribute to the economy and the budget,” she said after an emergency government coordination meeting at Halim Perdana Kusumah Airport in Jakarta.
The emergency funds are from the recently passed 2010 state budget.
“Now we’ll allocate Rp 100 billion, plus have another Rp 150 billion on call. The Rp 100 billion can cover the displaced for two months,” Mulyani said.
Armed Forces Chief Gen. Djoko Santoso said he had deployed more than 1,000 soldiers to help evacuate victims of the earthquake.
Most of the troops came from the Bukit Barisan Military Command in North Sumatra and the Army’s Strategic Command, also known as Kostrad.
“And we prepared four Hercules [transport] aircraft to bring in humanitarian aid. Today, two Hercules departed from Jakarta to bring personnel from the Kostrad unit and a medical team from Military Headquarters,” Djoko said.
Navy spokesman First Adm. Iskandar Sitompul said that a special task force of six ships would sail from Jakarta to Padang today carrying humanitarian aid to the earthquake site.
He said the ships would also operate as hospitals in the waters off West Sumatra, Sitompul said on Thursday.
Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said the military responded quickly following the disaster, which he said had saved lives.
The National Police on Thursday dispatched additional personnel to Padang including Mobile Brigade (Brimob) troops and forensic and medical experts.
“We deployed 500 Brimob officer to the disaster area,” Insp. Gen. Nanan Soekarna told reporters.
Meanwhile, former People’s Consultative Assembly chairman Amien Rais suggested the new members of the House of Representatives, who were inaugurated on Thursday, donate one-fifth of their first month’s salary to help victims and improve the House’s image.
The Indonesian Express Delivery Companies Association is providing an airplane to transport aid to West Sumatra.
Fourteen metric tons of aid had already been collected and would be sent on Saturday.
Laksmita Noviera, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Jakarta, said a joint team comprised of various UN agencies was dispatched to assess the situation on the ground in the wake of the disaster, and would produce recommendations on what the UN agencies could do to fill gaps in the aid. “We do have an emergency response fund on standby, and it would be ready for distribution once we know what kind of aid assistance we could do there,” Laksmira said.
Source: The JakartaGlobe (01/10/2009)