Deep scars from Indonesian quake remain a year on

By Budi Satriawan

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia, May 27 (Reuters) - A year after a powerful earthquake devastated an area around Indonesia's ancient royal city of Yogyakarta, thousands of homes have been rebuilt but deep physical and mental scars remain for many survivors.

The quake that struck around dawn killed more than 5,700 people and left tens of thousands homeless -- in a matter of seconds reducing homes to piles of wood, masonry and dust in a heavily populated area in the heart of Java island.

Yanti, a 36-year-old vegetable seller, was confined to a wheel chair after the walls of her home crumbled onto her.

Before the quake, the mother of three used to start her day at the market and return home by midday to care for her children.

"At that time I was shocked, the whole family were confused, I cried everyday. I was so depressed," said Yanti, as she struggled to walk using crutches at a Red Cross clinic in Bantul, a coastal area south of Yogyakarta which bore the brunt of the 6.3 magnitude quake whose epicentre was in the Indian Ocean.

Yanti, who goes by one name like many Indonesians, attends physiotherapy sessions three times a week, along with other patients.

"Nearly 40 percent of the patients in the programme were suffering from serious depression," said Tutur Priyanto, a Red Cross official. Nearly 40,000 people were injured in the quake.

In a culture where people are unwilling to be seen as a burden on their family, he said despair amongst some of the injured has led to a number of suicide attempts.

Community radio has been used to try to encourage listeners to speak out and help prevent isolation.


A year after the disaster, some people are still living in make-shift tents, although most have returned to at least semi-permanent housing, often bamboo-built structures.

Unlike some other disasters, most survivors have remained near their destroyed homes, with communities and households given cash to rebuild, with strings attached to try and prevent misuse.

Danang Parikesit of the National Technical Team for the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of post-earthquake Yogyakarta, said that the government had disbursed in two tranches 5.4 trillion rupiah ($618 million) to help rebuild 250,000 houses.

"People can match the size of the houses with their land. They can choose their own design for their houses." The official said, however, that in the Klaten area more than 40 percent of households were waiting for a second batch of cash.

Pete Manfield, a U.N. recovery coordinator for the area, said that lessons had been learned from previous disasters.

"I think what this has proved is that communities are the best people to make decisions about their needs."

In some areas new housing has been built by outside groups.

In the Prambanan district, about 70 quake-proof dome-shaped houses -- along with a mosque, clinic and kindergarten -- have been built by a foundation involving a Dubai-based property firm. Although the new inhabitants appeared happy with their dome homes, there have been glitches.

"There were lots of people living here but there is no electricity yet. So, they returned to their shelter again, up on the hill," said Mardiono, a 46-year-old recipient of a home, who said he was waiting for power before moving his family in.

Prambanan is the site of an ancient Hindu temple complex, which suffered damage from the quake. The more famous Borobudur complex nearby escaped damage.

Despite the problems, many officials say aspects of the recovery plan will be used as a model for other disasters.

Gendut Sunarto, a government official in Bantul, said the recovery was also a tribute to the local people.

"I believe it is in the nature of the Javanese people. We are very good at picking ourselves up from the ruins and our communal bonds make us help each other in rebuilding our lives."

(Additional reporting by Mita Valina Liem, Ed Davies and Adhityani Arga in Jakarta)


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