Divine Word Missionaries

Tsunami in South-East Asia


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QUAKE AND TSUNAMI UPDATE

n 12th January the secretary of the government Province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (Aceh for short) gave out the following official provisional figures for death and damage in Indonesia due to the earth/sea quake of 26th December 2004.

Buried so far some 78,395 bodies; still missing - 127,054 people; displaced persons - 337,500. Meanwhile 59,770 houses and 952 shops have been destroyed; 120 schools, another 77 Islamic boarding schools (pesantren); 44 mosques, a further 85 mushola (Muslim chapels); 35 health clinics; 96 government offices, 49 bridges, 207 kilometres of roads; 29,767 hectares of fish farming and around 1,000 boats. I do not know how accurate these figures are - they are the official ones. Past experience suggests that final figures tend to be inflationary.

It has often been stated - among others by the BBC - that the earthquake and tsunami killed 'indiscriminately' - taking the rich and the poor alike. This seems obvious, and yet in two ways the poor in particular are victims.

Firstly, - apart from expensive seaside resorts in southern Thailand - it is the poor who live in vulnerable places on the coast.

Secondly, the poor save their money in local branches of banks in their villages. They have lost all record of their savings both at home and at these village branches. While large businesses will have their assets in the city branches - with computer records in the main branch in Jakarta - in all likelihood the countless smaller savings in the mini-outlets in the villages have no records beyond the nearest town - which has also been destroyed.

Added to this is the question of identity. In my notes I mentioned the upcoming trauma of having no identity for most of the dead. I neglected to add the difficulties of the living who now have no identity cards. While the vast majority of people are honest - who is to claim who is alive and who is dead?

In all probability the poor have not only lost their assets at home, but now have no way of making a credible claim to their bank accounts.

PS

The SVD Website, like others including the BBC, speak of the tsunami - this true of all the other countries. But for Indonesia the first death and damage came from the massive earthquake of 8.9 on the Richter scale just 100 kilometres off the west coast of Sumatra. The enormous damage from the quake was then compounded by the tidal wave that swept the confused people as well as the damaged buildings, roads and bridges away.

Meanwhile SVD, diocesan and O.Carm seminarians with lay students from Ledalero Seminary have worked with the SSpS under the coordination of The Volunteer Team (established by Candraditya Research Centre some years ago) to collect money in Maumere twon. Within a few days over 60 million Indonesian rupiahs has been collected from this small town of 50,000 ordinary people.

John Prior,
Puslit Candraditya,
Jln. Lerowulan 1,
Wairklau-Maumere 86 112,
Flores-NTT, Indonesia.