Indonesia trucks rice to earthquake zone as volcano spews lava
SERUT, Indonesia – Indonesia sent truckloads of rice to earthquake victims Monday while nearby Mount Merapi spewed streams of lava, raising fears of a major eruption threatening thousands of people living on the slopes of the volcano.The volcano has been erupting for months, but activity has increased since the 6.3-magnitude quake struck central Java island on May 27, killing at least 5,857 people.Some survivors were clearing away rubble and mourning the dead in Peni, a village fringed with rice fields where few homes were left intact.”I only half-sleep at night because I can’t stop thinking of my children,” said Ngatedjo, a 64-year-old farmer whose three children, wife and older sister were all killed in the rubble of his home.”If I had a choice, I would have preferred them to live and me to die,” said Ngatedjo, who like many Indonesians uses a single name.He said he survived because a section of wall stayed in one piece and protected him from falling debris. Now he lives alone under two pieces of corrugated iron just yards away from where his home once stood.The Indonesian government revised its death toll downward from more than 6,200 in the quake after determining that some victims had been counted twice and others reported dead had turned up alive.Aid agencies stepped up supplies of food, clean water and latrines, but warned unsanitary conditions could lead to a wave of diarrhea and skin diseases, as well as infections.Some 200 trucks, each filled with more than four tons of rice destined for the disaster zone, left the city square in the ancient royal capital of Yogyakarta.”The government will ensure everybody gets food,” Vice President Yusuf Kalla said, seeing off the trucks. He promised the government would provide each survivor with 22 pounds of rice monthly until houses are rebuilt.Residents in Peni said their village had seen plenty of food since the disaster, with donations coming from religious groups, individuals and more recently the government.The international relief effort has picked up pace in recent days, but aid has yet to reach some remote areas. The United Nations has appealed for $103 million for recovery efforts over the next six months.The quake damaged or destroyed more than 130,000 homes and at least 835 schools, the U.N. children’s agency and government officials said.Eighth-grade students from at least 10 damaged schools took their final exams under tents on Monday, the agency said.”The pupils are not as cheerful as they used to be,” said Nuroh Hidayutun, the head teacher at one of the schools in Serut, as 15 teenagers puzzled over math problems in a tent. “But keeping up the routine is important.”About a third of the estimated 647,000 people displaced by the earthquake are living in makeshift shelters – often just plastic tarps or rusty sheets of metal – with no toilets or running water, surviving on donated food.Merapi, one of the world’s most active volcanos, is about 50 miles north of the epicenter of the powerful quake, and its activity has increased since the temblor.Its lava dome has swelled since the quake to 330 feet, raising fears that it could collapse, officials said. That could send searing-hot clouds of gas and debris pouring down the slopes into inhabited areas, the government has warned.Authorities have ordered residents in the danger zone to evacuate the area, but many have refused to abandon their livestock and crops.Indonesia is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location on the so-called Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.