At a glance: Indonesia

Thousands reported killed in central Java earthquake; UNICEF responds

UNICEF Image: Reuters image: Survivor of earthquake in Yogyakarta, central Java, Indonesia
© REUTERS/Crack Palinggi
An Indonesian woman look at the ruins of her house after an earthquake that has killed and injured thousands in Yogyakarta and the surrounding area in central Java, Indonesia.

NEW YORK, USA, 27 May 2006 – Almost 3,000 people have been killed in an earthquake that struck central Java, Indonesia, at 5:55 local time this morning, according to the provincial government’s Emergency Coordinating Agency. 

The earthquake, which registered 6.1 on the Richter scale, has severely damaged the city of Yogyakarta and the surrounding area with a combined total population of about 3 million. Further aftershocks have been recorded during the day.

In response to the unfolding disaster, UNICEF has deployed staff to assess the immediate needs of the victims – especially children – and is preparing to send relief supplies to the earthquake zone, including tents, hygiene kits, health kits and emergency education materials.

UNICEF Image: Reuters: Injured outside hospital after earthquake in Yogyakarta, central Java
© REUTERS/Crack Palinggi
An injured boy and his father wait outside a hospital after the earthquake in Yogyakarta, central Java.

Eyewitness to destruction

UNICEF Emergency Officer Lina Sofiani was in Yogyakarta at the time of the earthquake and reported seeing flattened houses and severe damage to commercial buildings.

“The floor started moving and I looked up and could see the ceiling rippling,” she said. “The shaking was the worst I had experienced. We ran outside. I drove toward the airport and saw people lining the street, panicked about the possibility of a tsunami.” Only the coastal township of Parentritus reported a surge of water, however.

The heaviest reported damage is in Yogyakarta’s southern Bantul district, where most of the deaths and injuries have occurred and some 3,000 houses have been destroyed.

The city’s transport system is also severely damaged, with roads and bridges destroyed. The airport is closed, with damage to the runway and the destruction of the terminal. Communications with Yogyakarta and the surrounding area are difficult.

Hospitals overwhelmed

The stricken area’s health infrastructure reportedly has been unable to cope with the influx of people injured in the disaster. According to the Indonesian Red Cross, a total of 3,000 victims have sought attention so far.

Ms. Sofiani of UNICEF witnessed the urgent demand for medical care outside a major hospital on the road to Solo, a nearby city. “Injured people were lying on the backs of flatbed trucks waiting for help,” she said. “Even the small health centres and medical clinics were overwhelmed with people.”

Other UNICEF staff members, including the chiefs of the Banda Aceh and Central Java field offices, are already in Yogyakarta to help assess the situation. Additional staff are being sent from Jakarta and Aceh to support the relief effort.

Emergency supplies are being accessed from available stocks in North Sumatra and Aceh as UNICEF works with other UN agencies and government officials on a coordinated crisis response.

UNICEF Indonesia Communication Officer John Budd said UNICEF's first priority in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake is to help treat the injured, in addition to providing survivors with essentials such as food, water and shelter. He noted that children, who comprise a third of the population in the quake-affected area, would be the most vulnerable in the days and weeks to come.

"If they're separated from their families, they are tremendously vulnerable," Mr. Budd said, adding that UNICEF would work to reunite unaccompanied children with their loved ones.




27 May 2006: UNICEF Emergency Officer Lina Sofiani provides an eyewitness account of the earthquake in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
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27 May 2006: UNICEF Indonesia Communication Officer John Budd describes immediate efforts to help quake-affected families in central Java. Reported by correspondent Sabine Dolan.
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