Following an early morning earthquake in Indonesia measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale that has reportedly killed thousands of people, the United Nations is gearing up to provide emergency assistance to the affected areas, top officials from the world body said today.
“The Secretary-General is deeply saddened by the loss of life, the hundreds of injuries and the destruction suffered by the people of Indonesia after the earthquake that struck Yogyakarta on the southern coast of Java,” a spokesman for Mr. Annan said in a statement released in New York, extending condolences to the families of those who have been killed or injured in the earthquake.
UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) teams have been “alerted and stand ready to lend their assistance to efforts to respond to humanitarian needs created by the disaster and to mobilize international support for that response as required,” the spokesman reported.
“The earthquake struck so early in the morning found most people still inside their homes. We are very concerned that this may result in increasing numbers of casualties and injured people,” said Jan Egeland, the UN Emergency Relief Coodinator.
Preliminary reports suggest that up to 2,900 people have perished in the earthquake, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. The epicentre of the earthquake was in the Indian Ocean some 25 kilometres south-southwest of Yogyakarta.
In the district of Bantul 70 to 80 per cent of houses have completely collapsed, as have various large buildings, including the public hospital, according to OCHA. In Prambanan, the railway station collapsed and the railroad was damaged, disrupting the railway service from Jakarta to Surabaya. The Yogyakarta international airport was also damaged, and flights are being redirected to Surakarta or Semarang.
While the Government of Indonesia has not requested international assistance, the UN “stands ready to lend assistance to efforts to respond to humanitarian needs created by the disaster and to mobilize international support for that response as required,” OCHA said, noting that a UN plane is on stand-by
Yogyakarta is in the heartland of Indonesia's main island of Java near Mount Merapi, a volcano that has been on top alert for a major eruption this month. OCHA's Regional Disaster Response Advisor for Kobe is in Yogyakarta, where he is liasing with the Governor and other authorities. The UN official was in the region in response to the Mount Merapi volcano.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said it is preparing emergency supplies to be sent to help victims and has deployed staff to Yogyakarta to assess the immediate needs of victims.
UNICEF has emergency supplies of tents, hygiene kits, health kits and school supplies ready to be transported to the earthquake zone.
The agency's chief, Ann Veneman, echoed the Secretary-General, sending condolences to those affected by the disaster. She also noted that “often in natural disasters children and the elderly suffer disproportionately because they are least able to react quickly.”