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Java quake survivors pray outside damaged churches


Christian survivors of the earthquake that devastated areas of Java island prayed outside damaged churches on Sunday, just over a week after the disaster killed more than 6,000 people.

Reuters reports churchgoers in the ancient Javanese royal city of Yogyakarta, 440 km east of Jakarta, chose to hold Sunday mass outside because, although some churches were still standing, most bore visible cracks on their walls and spires.

"I know that the disaster has made many people suffer. I am here now to pray for safety," said Purasto, kneeling under a tree in front of his church with his wife.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation and Muslims make up the majority in Yogyakarta city.

However, 17 percent of the city's half-million population is Christian and many of its leading hospitals and schools are Catholic institutions.

In the nearby area of Bantul, which suffered the most damage, Catholic priest Gregorius Utomo from the Sacred Heart church told Reuters that aid from tents to blankets has mostly come not from the government but from private donors elsewhere in Java.

"We need to calm people. They are still in panic. We need to give them aid for daily use because they have nothing," he said.

A wedding ceremony went ahead nearby with bride and groom clad in traditional Javanese garb facing a simple cross.

Survivors throughout the affected zone, an area larger than Hong Kong, also live in fear of the aftershocks that have shaken the region since the big quake. Victims rush from their squalid tents whenever a jolt occurs.

More than 20,000 people had to be treated in hospitals after the quake but there were more than 130,000 outpatients, the World Health Organisation said.

The official death toll from the disaster that struck on 27 May remains at around 6,200.


SOURCE
Quake survivors throng churches in Indonesia's Java (Reuters 2/6/06)

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5 Jun 2006