Caritas fears volcano eruption may slow earthquake response

A volcanic eruption in the Yogyakarta earthquake area in Indonesia would pose a threat to the already vulnerable region, Caritas Australia said as it responds to the disaster.

"The earthquake emergency response comes at the time Caritas Australia and its partners were already responding to the Mt Merapi volcano eruption. Response agencies are expecting that any eruption will compound the current emergency," said Jack de Groot, Chief Executive Officer of Caritas Australia.

The death toll from the quake has risen to 5,000 and an estimated 200,000 are reportedly injured in five regions of Daerah Istimewa, Yogyakarta province in Central Java. With over 25,000 homes damaged, many thousands have been left homeless.

According to UCA News the earthquake with a magnitude between 5.9 and 6.3 on the Richter scale struck in the early hours of the morning in the area of Yogyakarta, 405 km southeast of Jakarta, and was felt as far away as Malang, 250 km farther east.

The epicentre of the undersea quake was determined to be off the southern coast of Java Island. It heightened volcanic activity at rumbling Mount Merapi, on the border of Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces.

Mr de Groot said there are immediate needs for medical supplies, mobile medical teams, blankets, tarpaulins and water and sanitation for the camps that have been set up around the region.

"Due the current wet season in Indonesia, the provision of shelter is a priority as there are an insufficient number of buildings to house the displaced people," said Mr de Groot.

"There is an extensive Catholic Church network in Indonesia, which enables us to carry out needs assessments in the affected areas and identify the most appropriate aid," he said.

Mr de Groot appealed to the international community for assistance. "The Government of Indonesia is already stretched from various natural disasters, including the imminent eruption of Mt Merapi, and has limited resources to respond to this emergency," he said.

Meanwhile, UCA News reports that the parish priest of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Ganjuran, members of its parish pastoral council (DPP, Indonesian acronym), and parish volunteers are among those on the ground channelling aid to people affected by the disaster.

The church is located in Bantul district, the worst-hit area. The church, built in 1924, was among the buildings destroyed, and four people were killed when it collapsed. Only its tower remains intact.

Yohanes Agus Prayitno, a Ganjuran parish activist, told UCA News that he is "focusing on how to distribute aid, especially cooked food, to the survivors."

Since the disaster struck, he said, about 30 parish volunteers have been busy distributing food and erecting emergency tents in the compound of Elisabeth Hospital, located just beside the destroyed church.

The Ganjuran church is a popular shrine, attracting many pilgrims during the Marian months of May and October. Many people make donations to the church.

Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo of Semarang visited the destroyed church several hours after the earthquake, and again the following day, together with staff of Caritas and the Crisis Center of the Bishops' Conference of Indonesia.

Besides the church in Ganjuran, other church buildings destroyed include St Jacob Church of Kloderan, Mary Rosary Chapel in Gesikan and St Theresia Chapel in Brosot, all in Bantul, as well as Christ the King Church of Baciro in Yogyakarta. St John the Apostle Church in Pringwulung and Heart of the Immaculate Virgin Mary Church in Kumetiran, both in Yogyakarta, were damaged.

Stefanus Sunaryo, DPP vice chairman of Marganingsih Church in Kalasan, another church that was destroyed, said: "We erected tents to house the survivors who could not be accommodated in the hospitals, and women (from the church) cooked for them."

According to Sunaryo, he did not know where the parish women got foodstuffs such as rice and instant noodles. "It was as if the food just appeared. We do not have time to register the donors," he said.

He counted about 50 parishioners including young people as involved in aiding the quake survivors.

According to Fr Antonius Jarot Kusno Priyono, parish priest of Ganjuran Church, 40 out of the 500 villagers of the predominantly Catholic hamlet of Caben were killed. Ninety percent of the houses here were totally destroyed, he said.

"We do not know how many Catholics from my parish were killed by the quake. Maybe I will have the exact number after a week," he said. He explained that the deaths were not reported to the priests for funeral rites, "since all the three priests of the parish were busy attending to the destroyed church and coordinating aid for victims."

Caritas said people wishing to donate money to the earthquake relief efforts should call 1800 024 413 or visit www.caritas.org.au.

Caritas Australia says Merapi eruption may impact Indonesian earthquake response (Caritas Australia 29/5/06)
Catholics rush to aid quake victims (Catholic Online/Union of Catholic Asian News 29/5/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Caritas Australia

Caritas Australia responds to Indonesia Earthquake (CathNews 29/5/06)

Telegram for Indonesian earthquake (Vatican Information Service 27/5/06 - temporary url)
International relief on way to Indonesia following earthquake (catholicireland.net 29/5/06)
Papal condolences to Indonesian quake victims (Catholic World News 29/5/06)

30 May 2006