500 dying daily in Indonesia

June 02, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BANTUL, Indonesia --With as many as 500 people dying each day from injuries they sustained during last Saturday's earthquake, the death toll from the quake has surpassed 6,200, by the count of Indonesian officials, and is likely to continue to rise.

More than 46,000 people were injured in the quake and remain alive, 33,000 of them with serious injuries, according to the Indonesian social affairs ministry.

Though search and rescue efforts ended Tuesday, John Budd, a spokesman for the U.N. Children's Fund, said yesterday that the huge number of casualties had overwhelmed the area's hospitals.

"Clearly, it is these injured people who are dying," he said.

At Bantul General Hospital, where many seriously injured victims are being treated, conditions were much improved yesterday. The Indonesian military has been transporting patients with only minor injuries to more distant hospitals in Yogyakarta, eight miles north of Bantul, the hardest hit district, and to nearby field hospitals.

All patients at Bantul General now have beds, a sharp improvement from the situation over the weekend, when dozens of bleeding victims lined the floors inside the hospital and slept on the wet ground beneath tarpaulins in the parking lot.

An aid worker from the relief group Mercy Corps said the hospital now had sufficient supplies of bandages, anesthetics and antibiotics. Relief workers scrambled to distribute the supplies from a corner of the hospital, as local and foreign doctors raced through the hallways from patient to patient.

Still, many patients have been waiting for days for necessary surgery, some of them since Saturday. Officials at Bantul General said the hospital's operating suites have been able to handle only about 18 patients a day, far too few to keep up with the hundreds of victims who arrived Wednesday and yesterday.

Relatives of some patients said they were confused and anxious over conflicting diagnoses and treatment orders from different doctors at the hospital.

Surat, 45, who is looking after her three injured daughters and their grandparents, said the grandfather, Pawirojoyo, who doesn't remember his age, shattered his foot when a house fell on the family.

Pawirojoyo, who like many Indonesians uses a single name, was lucky to have received surgery early.

But he was later told that a second operation would be needed because previous doctors were not aware that he had diabetes, and the condition had caused swelling and an infection in his injured foot.

"Many doctors have come to check on us, they have been very attentive, but they are all saying different things," said Surat, who fought back tears as she stood beside her battered 12-year-old daughter.

"The French doctors said he needs surgery again, and the Indonesian doctors said he doesn't. I am very confused."

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