A Year On, Yogya Quake Victims Struggle to Rebuild

BANTUL, Central Java ~ Jumali, one of thousands left homeless around the Yogyakarta region after a massive earthquake one year ago, fears he has been forgotten.

“I’ve been living in this hut since the quake because I haven’t received the Rp15 million (US$1,716) the government is giving survivors; I don’t know why,” Jumali says outside the bamboo shelter he shares with his wife in hard-hit Bantul district south of the city.

His house was among 140,000 destroyed in the disaster near Yogyakarta. The 6.3-magnitude quake that struck last May 27 killed 5,778 people and caused US$3.1 billion worth of damage.

Reconstruction in the 12 months since the tragedy has been frenetic. Aid agencies have poured into the area to repair homes and the 1,200 badly damaged schools, as well as provide grants to restart businesses.

But bamboo huts and tents continue to dot the green landscape, particularly in Bantul, in contrast to the brick-and-concrete homes under construction around them.

Up to 10,000 people are still living in basic shelters in the Bantul and nearby Klaten areas, a government and World Bank survey says, as authorities struggle to reach all of the 1.6 million made homeless.

Besides the totally destroyed homes, about 190,000 others were severely damaged, making many unsafe to live in, the United Nations says.

Although he fears his home may never be rebuilt, Jumali stays busy, selling sweets and cigarettes outside his shelter in Canden village.

Partially paralyzed from a stroke several years ago, he tries to stay positive.

The 47-year-old, who painstakingly pulled himself clear of his collapsed home on his hands, has a new wheelchair, donated by the Indonesian Red Cross.

It “makes life much easier,” he says with a smile.

Despite the thousands still living in temporary shelters, Bantul administrator Idham Samawi insists that the area, known for its high rice production and fine pottery, is almost back on its feet.

“One year after the quake, recovery and reconstruction of Bantul is almost done. About 90 percent of damaged houses, schools, public health facilities have been rebuilt and the remainder are under construction,” Samawi said.

The central government says it has provided Rp15 million per home in the worst-hit regions to help with repairs, in a scheme that has cost Rp2.7 trillion rupiah ($303.37 million).

The same amount has been allocated in the 2007 budget for remaining homes.

Agung Sudharto, from Jetis village in Bantul, has been among those to receive the government’s help.

He and his family moved into their new concrete house a week ago, and hope it will help heal the trauma they still suffer.

The farmer recalls his teenage son holding back a large falling cupboard that threatened to crush him and his heavily pregnant wife as their house collapsed around them in the quake.

“I rushed my wife into the street (where his teenage son had also escaped) to save her but did not realize that my other son (aged 11) was still in his room sleeping,” he says, his eyes welling with tears.

His wife gave birth the day after the quake.

“I’d always dreamed of having a daughter. Finally she came. My baby daughter gives me the spirit to continue my life after the quake,” he says.

In nearby Surenwetan village, Purkasih, 70, is grateful that a Christian aid agency offered to rebuild her home, despite the painful memories that it holds.

“I was outside the house cleaning up falling leaves while my sister was on the veranda chatting to me. She had just entered the house when the quake occurred,” she says, her voice trembling.

Bent double with age, Purkasih tried desperately to dig through the rubble with her bare hands to find her sister and main companion. Rescuers recovered her body the next day.

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