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To curb the spread of disease and prevent more people from dying, Oxfam is rushing emergency water supplies to the Indonesian island of Nias. A major earthquake off the western coast of Sumatra on March 28 left hundreds of people dead and its major town in rubble.
Registering 8.7 on the Richter scale, the earthquake destroyed many of the buildings in Nias and damaged water systems around the island.
"The collapse of the water system in Gunungsitoli has left 20,000 people without access to clean drinking water," said Alessandra Villas-Boas, an Oxfam aid worker in Nias. "Unless we get a water supply back up and running, disease could break out and more lives could be lost."
From its warehouses in Aceh and Medan on the nearby island of Sumatra, Oxfam is shipping water tanks, tap stands, generators, fuel, water trucks, 4,000 jerry cans, and chlorine for water purification. Other essential items include tents, flashlights, and cooking fuel and utensils.
Oxfam now has a team in Nias assessing the extent of the damage. One of the worst-hit areas appears to be the major town, Gunungsitoli, where the earthquake knocked out the electricity and shut off water pumps.
"We're urgently trying to do basic needs assessment," said Villas-Boas, from Gunungsitoli. "Clearly the failure of the water system and the collapse of the roads here are major issues." Transport by car is impossible. Oxfam staff and emergency workers are using motorbikes to move around.
A mosque in town is now serving as both a temporary shelter for displaced people and as a morgue, to which 34 bodies have already been brought.
To support its work in the region, Oxfam is accepting donations to its Global Emergencies Fund.
Since the Dec. 26th tsunami, Oxfam has been working to save lives and rebuild communities in the worst-affected coastal areas of Indonesia, southern India, and Sri Lanka. The agency is providing water and sanitation, shelter, and cash-for-work programs to thousands of people while also promoting public health measures and helping people get back to earning their livelihoods.