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Saturday, April 02, 2005

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GUNUNGSITOLI, Indonesia, Apr 1 (AFP): A Bad weather and infrastructure damage hampered relief efforts in quake-hit northwestern Indonesia Thursday, relief agencies said, as survivors in remote areas were reportedly going hungry. Water supplies were running low in Nias island's main town of Gunung Sitoli, where the UN estimated about 500 people were killed in Monday's quake, and authorities were desperate for equipment to aid the search for anyone trapped under the rubble. "The island of Nias still badly needs heavy equipment such as backhoes, bulldozers and trucks. Electricity is still not available to all parts of the city," said the island's district chief Binahati Baeha. Armed forces chief Sutarto said heavy-lifting equipment had been sent to the area but there were problems in getting it ashore. "At the moment there are already four excavators on board our navy ship but we're still trying to find a way to bring them onto land," he told reporters. The power cut had disabled the town's electrical water purification system and the shortage of water was becoming severe, relief officials said. "Water purification is emerging as a major need," said a coordinator for UN aid operations, Michele Lipner. A water purification system from Oxfam arrived in Gunung Sitoli Thursday and the town's own system was being repaired, UN Development Programme spokeswoman Imogen Wall said. AFP from Sydne adds: Australia rushed more soldiers and supplies to earthquake-ravaged Indonesia Thursday but two planes carrying much-needed aid were turned away on arrival, the Australian embassy in Jakarta said. The planes carrying emergency supplies and 60 medical personnel were refused permission to land near the small town of Sibolga-opposite the worst-hit island of Nias-because of the volume of traffic, embassy spokeswoman Liz O'Neill told the

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news agency. She could not confirm an Australian media report that they were turned back because Indonesian military air traffic controllers had blocked their landing slot after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono extended a tour of the area.
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