UPDATE: Java Quake Toll Passes 4900; 200,000 Homeless

May 27, 2006

More than 4900 people have now been confirmed dead following the massive earthquake that hit the Indonesia Island of Java on Saturday, May 27, around 6:00 in the morning local time. More than 20,000 have been injured, and an estimated 200,000 have been left homeless.

The toll may rise further as rescue workers continue their search through the rubble of collapsed buildings and other debris caused by the shock. Little hope remains of finding any more survivors. In addition heavy rains in the region have slowed the arrival of much needed emergency supplies.

The quake, centered near the town of Bantul, around 15 miles (25 kms) south of the historic city of Yogyakarta, measured 6.3 on the Richter Scale. The same area is also the scene of an ongoing volcanic eruption on Mount Merapi. In the past several weeks thousands of people had been evacuated from areas near the volcano, increasing the populations of nearby villages and towns.

Early reports raised fears that the quake would trigger a tsunami, but fortunately no seismic sea waves have been reported. The center of the massive quake, which caused extensive damage over a radius of 24 miles (40 kms) was on land, and therefore did not affect sea levels.

The BBC reported that the Indonesian Red Cross has dispatched a number of rapid response teams to the area, and 21 field hospital units were working at full capacity.
The United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said a UN disaster response team was also ready to help with humanitarian relief. Malaysia, Japan, Russia and the European Union have all promised to send aid, but emergency relief may be delayed, as the region’s main airport at Yogyakarta has been closed due to quake damage that has buckled portions of the runway.

The Indonesian islands are located squarely atop one of the most active regions of the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire.” These are the points around the Pacific Basin where a number of tectonic plates are in collision with one another. They include the San Andreas fault, which runs from the Gulf of Baja to north of San Francisco and was responsible for the 1906 earthquake.

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