Jokowi vows to rebuild as soon as possible and calls on people to participate.

  09 December 2016 14:50

Associated Press - Pesident Joko "Jokowi" Widodo traveled Friday to areas of Aceh province devastated by a magnitude 6.5 earthquake, as estimates of the number of displaced people swelled, and vowed that torn-apart communities would be rebuilt.

Stopping at a collapsed mosque in Tringgading not far from the quake's epicenter, Jokowi gave out envelopes stuffed with 15 million rupiah — a small fortune in Aceh where the minimum wage is about 2 million rupiah a month — to people whose family members were killed.

"I've already decided that the mosque will be rebuilt as soon as possible, but we have to do it together starting tomorrow," he told the crowd.

At least 100 people were killed in the quake that hit the northeast of Aceh province on Sumatra before dawn Wednesday. Hundreds of people were injured and more than 11,000 buildings destroyed or damaged. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said about 23,000 people are displaced. They are staying in temporary shelters and mosques or with relatives.

Killer quakes occur regularly in the region, where many live with the terrifying memory of a giant Dec. 26, 2004 earthquake that struck off Sumatra. The magnitude 9.1 quake triggered a devastating tsunami that killed more than 100,000 Acehnese.

"I don't know what to do but I'm really thankful for this [donation]," said Miftahuddin, who received 15 million rupiah from Jokowi. "Because we don't have anything left," said Miftahuddin, who goes by one name.

A substantial relief effort is underway involving the government, military and international humanitarian organizations.

Earlier Friday morning, Jokowi and his entourage visited a hospital in the town of Sigli where the injured are being treated. The damaged hospital in Pidie Jaya district near the epicenter has been overwhelmed and some patients were accommodated in tents on its grounds.

Mohammad Reza, the hospital director, said Jokowi handed out envelopes containing 5 million rupiah to each of the injured.

"His visit is likely a motivation for the victims to move on," Reza said.

Officials lowered the death toll to 100 from 102 on Thursday, with the disaster mitigation agency saying the names of two victims had been recorded twice.

Sniffer dogs joined a search for bodies and possible survivors in the hard-hit town of Meureudu, where a market filled with shop houses was largely flattened. Four other locations in Pidie Jaya are also the focus of search efforts.

Darma Yanti, who ran a garment business in the market with her husband, said it was a miracle she survived both Wednesday's earthquake and the 2004 tsunami.

Yanti and her husband, who have a 10-month-old baby, were awakened by a strong jolt that was quickly followed by a boom as their building swayed. Only later did she realize the explosion-like sound was an adjacent row of shop houses collapsing.

"I heard people shouting from the debris: Men, women, children," Yanti said, sobbing. "Oh my God, I know some of them well. They are my friends, my neighbors, but I can't do anything to help them."


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