Oxfam emergency teams are working around the clock to provide clean drinking water and essential supplies to thousands of people made homeless by a powerful earthquake in central Java, Indonesia.
The earthquake, which measured 6.2 on the Richter scale, struck shortly before 6 am today near the ancient city of Yogyakarta, killing or injuring thousands of people. Aftershocks continue to shake the city, which has a population of about 800,000, as well as nearby villages.
“Many of our local staff were badly shaken by the quake, and they all have family in the area, so the pressures on them have been immense,” said David Macdonald, Oxfam’s country program manager for Indonesia. “The way they’ve responded has been really impressive. Most people have decided to come in and play an active part in the emergency response.
Three Oxfam teams carried out assessments in Bantul, the worst-affected district in the southwest part of Yogyakarta, and in villages farther south. In some of those villages, up to 90 percent of the homes have been destroyed, including many of those built of mud and brick.
An estimated 30,000 households were affected by the quake, and many families will be sleeping outside tonight.
The densely populated area of Bantul was closest to the quake’s epicentre, and its medical facilities have been inundated with injured people. An Oxfam worker described conditions there as “pretty grim.”
Oxfam teams plan to set up water tanks and truck water to the hospital in Bantul, and will also distribute hygiene kits with soap, towels, and sarongs.
Oxfam has been working in Yogyakarta for 10 years, and has a stock of relief supplies, including shelter materials, and water and sanitation equipment, in place. Its 20 staff members in the city are all safe, and additional staff from Aceh, Jakarta, and Bangkok are planning to arrive in the city tomorrow.
“Luckily, the contingency planning we’d been doing for a possible eruption of the Merapi volcano has meant we have immediate access to these stocks of equipment stored locally,” said Macdonald.
Oxfam teams are also arranging for 5,000 buckets and jerry cans to be sent from Jakarta.
Parts of Yogyakarta have lost electric power, and the mobile phone network has been erratic, as people try to contact their families and colleagues.
The Yogyakarta airport has been temporarily closed because of earthquake damage. It takes about nine hours by road or rail to reach Yogyakarta from the capital, Jakarta, 250 miles to the west.
Donations to help with the relief effort may be made to Oxfam America’s Global Emergencies Fund.