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U.S. Military Joins Indonesia Quake Relief

U.S. Marines land in Indonesia as help from 21 nations arrives for earthquake victims

BANTUL, Indonesia, May. 31, 2006
By EN-LAI YEOH Associated Press Writer

(AP) U.S. Marines joined an international effort Tuesday to deliver aid and medical equipment to some 200,000 Indonesians left homeless by a devastating earthquake, as hopes faded of finding more survivors.

Two U.S. Marine cargo planes carrying a mobile field hospital landed in Yogyakarta, closest to the quake area in central Java, after cracks in the airport runway were patched.

A disaster assistance response team from the U.S. Agency for International Development is being readied and the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, which has extensive medical facilities, is en route to the area, White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.

The United States also increased its aid contribution to $5 million.

The United Nations said at least 21 other countries have joined the effort to help those left homeless by Saturday's magnitude-6.3 quake, which killed more than 5,800 people.

As medical aid began to arrive, the threat of a health crisis appeared to be easing.

At two hospitals in Bantul, the hardest-hit district, parking lots and hallways that were filled with hundreds of injured in the days after the quake were clear, with most patients now being treated in beds.

Workers removed a tent from the parking lot at Yogyakarta's largest hospital, Sardjito, that had been used to shelter patients.

The U.N.'s top humanitarian official said the aid effort was going well, and there had been major improvements in coordination among aid organizations and nations since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 131,000 people in Indonesia's Aceh province alone.

"We are now reaching more and more victims," Jan Egeland told The Associated Press in Brussels, Belgium. "I am getting reports that we are making enormous progress."

The government's Social Affairs Ministry said the official death toll rose Wednesday to 5,846.

The government also said Wednesday that temblor destroyed more than 105,000 homes, reducing them to piles of bricks, tiles and wood in less than a minute.

Most survivors were still living in improvised shacks or group shelters erected in rice fields. Groups of families cooked together, each contributing scavenged food.

Despite government promises of aid, shortages of food and fresh water remained a pressing concern, and thousands of people used cardboard boxes to beg for cash and supplies from passing drivers.

The head of a Malaysia search and rescue team said hope had faded of finding more survivors or bodies, and his group had turned to clearing rubble from streets instead.

"The collapsed homes were all so small that anyone who was trapped would have been extracted by their family members," Abdul Aziz Ahmad said, adding his team found only one body Monday.

A 44-member team of Chinese doctors, search and rescue workers and seismologists also arrived with five tons of supplies, including a field hospital, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Thailand said it would send 48 military medical personnel, medicine and equipment.

Teams from Malaysia, Singapore, Norway and other nations already are working in the area.

The Asian Development Bank announced a total of $60 million in grants and low-interest loans to rebuild the earthquake zone.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has temporarily moved his office to Yogyakarta and spent a night sleeping in a tent with survivors, vowed to fight corruption in delivering aid money.

"I am ordering that not even one dollar will be misused," he said.

The quake was the fourth destructive temblor to hit Indonesia in the past 17 months, including the one that triggered the Dec. 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami.

MMVI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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