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Indonesia Declares Emergency After Quake Kills 4,600
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Indonesia's government declared a state of emergency after a quake killed more than 4,600 people, and rescue workers raced against time on Monday in the hope of finding survivors under the debris of razed homes.

Some 35,000 buildings around the city of Yogyakarta were reduced to rubble when a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck at the crack of dawn on Saturday.

After a cabinet meeting late on Sunday, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the emergency period would last three months and the government aimed to complete "reconstruction and rehabilitation" within a year.

"We will have an emergency period for three months, May till August. The objectives are providing food, health care and shelter," Kalla told reporters.

"The funds needed are about 1 trillion rupiahs (US$100 million) ... for repairing homes and facilitating people's needs. This figure can change. It comes from the state budget and international aid."

An estimated 35,000 homes and buildings had been destroyed and 50,000 people needed help, Kalla said, adding that the quake had destroyed power facilities worth 200 billion rupiahs.

Government figures put the number of injured at 2,155, but UNICEF (UN children's fund) spokesman John Budd said 20,000 had been injured and more than 100,000 were homeless.

Trucks full of volunteers from Indonesian political parties and Islamic groups, as well as military vehicles carrying soldiers, headed south from the ancient royal city to Bantul, the area hardest hit.

"Thousands of houses are damaged and people may still be trapped beneath them," Ghozali Situmorang, director general of aid management for the national social department, told Yogyakarta radio.

Medical supplies and body bags arrived at the airport of Yogyakarta, about 25 km (15 miles) from the Indian Ocean coast. Saturday's quake was centered just offshore.

The international community has offered medical teams and emergency supplies. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has moved his office temporarily to Yogyakarta.

A vulcanologist said the quake had heightened volcanic activity at nearby Mount Merapi, which experts believe may be about to erupt. Merapi has been rumbling for weeks and sporadically emitting hot lava and highly toxic hot gas.

The official death toll jumped to 4,611 on Sunday night, said the Social Affairs Ministry's disaster task force.

In Bantul, which accounted for more than 2,000 of the deaths and where most buildings were flattened, makeshift plastic tents dotted the roads.

In the afternoon heat, Sugiyo picked through the remnants of his brick home. He had been trapped with his family before being rescued by neighbors. His mother was killed.

His face lit up as he spotted a pink box containing diapers and baby clothes. "This is for my 2-year-old daughter," he said, holding it tightly in his arms.

Throughout the disaster-struck region, authorities struggled to deliver aid.

"The problem now is that we are still short of tents, many people are still living on the streets or open areas," said Suseno, a field officer of the Yogyakarta disaster task force.

Clean water was another problem, officials said. In Bantul, all 12 water distribution systems had been either knocked out completely or were not working properly, UNICEF's Budd said.

"The area destroyed by the quake is very large," said Social Minister Bachtiar Chamsyah. "We need time ... hopefully, in a week or 10 days the emergency period can be over."

The quake struck while many were still in bed. The wooden roofs of flimsy houses fell in on them.

Fearful of aftershocks, thousands camped outside for a second night despite rain.

Hospitals struggled to cope. Hundreds of people crammed into the corridors and grounds of Yogyakarta's Bethesda hospital. Rainwater streamed into the building through cracks opened up by the earthquake.

Hospital volunteer Andrew Jeremijenko said: "There's a lot of severe injuries ... there are not enough nurses or doctors to cope with the load."

Saturday's was the third major tremor to hit Indonesia in 18 months. The worst, the December 26, 2004 quake and its resulting tsunami, left some 170,000 people dead or missing around Aceh.

Indonesia sits on the Asia-Pacific region's "Ring of Fire", marked by heavy volcanic and tectonic activity.

On Sunday a quake of 6.7 magnitude struck the South Pacific island of Tonga and the New Britain region of Papua New Guinea felt a 6.2 magnitude quake, the US Geological Survey said.

A prime tourist attraction, the Yogyakarta area is home to ancient heritage sites like Borobudur, the biggest Buddhist monument on Earth. It survived the quake.

But the Prambanan Hindu temple complex suffered some damage, as did the roads and houses near it, a Reuters witness said.

Indonesian media reported that outer sections of Yogyakarta's centuries-old royal palaces had also collapsed.

(Chinadaily.com via agencies May 29, 2006)

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