Some schools reopen in quake-hit Indonesia city

PADANG, Indonesia Mon Oct 5, 2009 11:15am EDT

1 of 37. A girl stands in her destroyed house in the earthquake-ravaged village of Tandikat in Indonesia's West Sumatra province October 5, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

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PADANG, Indonesia (Reuters) - Markets reopened and some children attended school in the earthquake-shattered city of Padang on Monday, but inland villages engulfed by landslides were to be left as mass graves to focus on getting aid to survivors.

Relief workers saw little chance of finding anyone alive in the rubble of buildings five days after a 7.6 magnitude quake hit the Indonesian island of Sumatra, perhaps killing thousands.

While aid and international rescue teams have poured into Padang, a city of 900,000, help has been slow to reach remoter inland areas, with landslides cutting off many roads.

When they have managed to reach the interior, rescuers have found entire villages obliterated by landslides and homeless survivors begging for food, water and shelter.

"Instead of the extra cost of evacuating the corpses, it's better to allocate the money for the living," Ade Edward, the head of the West Sumatra earthquake coordinating desk, was quoted by Kompas newspaper as saying.

Health officials said five villages had been buried in torrents of mud and rock torn out of the lush green hills by the force of the quake, killing about 600 people.

"I know that no one could have survived when the landslide happened," said Jumahadi Sultan, a resident in the village of Kapala Koto in Patamuan district, about 60 km from Padang.

A rescue official said more than 100 people were at a wedding in Kapala Koto when the landslide hit.

On the route to the villages hit by landslides there was anger from locals who felt aid was bypassing them.

"People are so angry here they have stopped the aid trucks asking why are they sending aid to villages where so many are dead," said Azhari, one of the villagers.

Erol, a resident with a 10-day-old infant in Pasa Dama, a village outside Padang, said all he had eaten in a day was a packet of instant noodles.

"All of us are hungry. We hear on the radio very nice words that aid is pouring in, but where is it?," he asked.

Metro TV also reported bottlenecks in transporting aid was causing supplies to pile up in many local district offices.

It was not clear how many people have been displaced, but Indonesia's disaster agency said about 180,000 homes and 20,000 buildings had been damaged in the quake.

FEARS OF DISEASE

Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari estimated the death toll could reach 3,000, adding disease was becoming a concern, especially in Padang city, where a pervading stench of decomposing bodies hangs over the ruined buildings.

But Priyadi Kardono, a spokesman for the national disaster agency, said: "The death toll could reach over 1,000 but I don't think it will go far higher than that."

Children were particularly vulnerable.

"The biggest threat to children now is illness due to things like dirty water and trauma," said Jon Bugge, a spokesman for Save the Children, whose group is delivering tarpaulins, plastic sheeting and water purifying tablets.

Aid from at least 16 countries and international bodies has arrived in Indonesia since last week, an official said, adding that foreign rescue and medical teams were now not required.

"What we need now is tents and other facilities to replace damaged homes. We also still need food and blankets," said Dewina Nasution of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said.

Some children returned to school on Monday in Padang as the city attempted to return to normalcy.

"The building is safe enough but we have no power and water doesn't always come out of the tap," said Tri Raswati, 17, at High School No. 3 in East Padang.

But at another school children were turned away, because of the danger of collapse in a nearby building. Many public buildings collapsed in the quake raising questions about construction standards ina quake-prone area.

West Sumatra's governor said he would issue a new law to ensure all buildings were built to withstand a magnitude 8 quake.

"If the government fails to enforce it, the government can be sued. That's my guarantee," governor Gamawan Fauzi said.

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