Quake victims leave for home 


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December 22, 2006
Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan
Displaced earthquake victims in North Sumatra's Mandailing Natal regency began to trickle home Thursday, four days after the Monday disaster killed four people and damaged or destroyed more than 800 houses. Most people returning Muara Sipongi district are those whose houses are still largely intact, while many others are still camping out in makeshift shelters. Pasar Singo village resident Yudha Siregar is one of the lucky ones -- his house and family were not damaged by the tremors. "On the first day after the disaster, we were still scared but not any more, especially since the regency administration has advised people to return home," the 43-year-old said Thursday. However, the coordinator at a volunteer disaster relief post in the regency, Timbul Panggabean, said Thursday only small numbers of quake victims were returning home. Timbul said the Bandar Panjang Tuo and Aek Botong villages were still completely abandoned by residents as most houses were damaged when the quake struck. Based on Mandailing Natal regency data, 727 of 6,157 people went home Thursday. North Sumatra provincial administration spokesman, Addy Sofyan said 5,430 displaced people were still living in shelters in the Panyabungan, Kota Nopan and Rao districts. "All victims are being monitored by the provincial government and will remain so until they all return home," Addy said. The administration was telling victims to return home because the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency said there would be no more dangerous aftershocks, he said. Blocked roads to isolated areas had now been opened, he said, making it easier for aid to get to badly hit areas. Damaged houses would be repaired after the social services office took stock of the problem and registered homeowners, Addy said. The central government has promised to provide families Rp 10 million (US$1,086) assistance for each damaged house. "Data we received from the Mandailing Natal regency administration showed the quake has badly damaged 726 houses and lightly damaged 121 others. This data will be rechecked by the social services office team before the assistance is distributed." The work is expected to be completed this week. Addy said the administration was told the central government would allocate Rp 9 billion next year to relocate affected residents and repair damaged houses in Muara Sipongi. "We don't know when the repair work will begin, but we plan for it to be completed in the next five months," he said.