Jakarta (Fides Service) - So far the number of confirmed deaths is 5,000 but according to the local authorities the figure is destined to rise and could be as high as 25,000: this is the situation in Indonesia after the disastrous tsunami which swept over a vast area of south east Asia last Sunday. The Church in Indonesia began relief work immediately: personnel at the nunciature in Jakarta has been mobilised. Papal Nuncio Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjit, in constant contact with the Bishops in the affected diocese particularly on the Island of Sumatra, is co-ordinating national and international relief work. Catholic personnel, volunteers, catechists, laity have offered to assist the victims and shelter the homeless.
Local Caritas offices are working with civil organisations and associations of other religions, mainly Muslim, to co-ordinate relief work as the aid from the United Nations, European Union and the International Red Cross begins to arrive.
The epicentre of the undersea earthquake which caused the giant waves was registered off the island of Sumatra. The quake registered as 9 degrees Richter, the most violent in the last 40 years, triggered a series of disastrous giant waves. Dozens of buildings collapsed as giant waves swept the provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra. In a race against time rescue workers labour to remove corpses to prevent epidemics of disease.
Indonesian Premier Susilo Bambang Yudoyhono addressed a message to the nation assuring the people in the affected areas all possible help to overcome the tragedy.
The provinces of Aceh and North Sumatra were already affected by civil conflict between secessionist rebels and the army, engaged in military operations in the area over the past year. The people were already suffering the consequences of conflict: now the giant wave has made life even more difficult and daily life is a struggle.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 28/12/2004 righe 27 parole 279)