|© REUTERS Nias/Whiteside|
|A young survivor from Nias is taken to Sumatra for medical treatment. Hundreds more are feared dead amid the rubble of collapsed buildings.|
By Jane O’Brien
NEW YORK, 31 March 2005 – Relief supplies are starting to reach areas damaged by the earthquake that struck Sumatra and nearby islands in Indonesia this week. More than 600 people are reported dead on the worst-hit island of Nias, where a quarter of all buildings have been destroyed and thousands of people left homeless.
Water shortages remain the biggest problem for survivors. UNICEF has sent two treatment plants that will supply water for 40,000 people. Additional health kits, purification tablets, jerry cans and rehydration salts have been dispatched from Medan and Banda Aceh in Sumatra.
UNICEF emergency staff have arrived on Nias to coordinate the distribution of aid and make further assessments of the damage. Damage to the airport means only light aircraft and helicopters can land. This is slowing relief efforts; many supplies are having to arrive by sea.
Rescuers are continuing to search through the rubble of collapsed buildings and the death toll is expected to rise. Most injuries have been caused by falling masonry. UNICEF is working with the World Food Programme to evacuate casualties for medical treatment.
This is the second disaster to strike the region in three months. The last earthquake on 26 December caused the tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people. Banda Aceh, which was devastated at the time, has now become the central hub for emergency relief to Nias and other stricken areas.
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