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This is the village of Padang Alai a two and a half hour drive from the city of Padang. It has seen better days. About 90% of the houses are destroyed. The school is a mass of bricks.
Oxfam is trucking water into Mursidah’s village but getting there is not easy. The road is narrow and full of large cracks. The more trucks that pass the more damage is done to the road. Landslides have gouged the surrounding steep hills. The hills remain unstable and there is a fear that the heavy downpours of raining season will cause more landslides. The government has issued storm warnings for the next few days.
Nine villages in this area were cut off for some time before the roads were cleared and two villages are still only accessible by foot. On the day the earthquake struck there were 200 people attending a wedding in one of the villages. The village is now a tomb.
This is the area where the earthquake did its worse. If the houses weren’t shaken to oblivion they were buried under tons of earth, boulders and trees as hills gave way.
The scale of the earthquake’s damage is slowly being revealed as the more remote areas are reached. So far some 125,000 houses are destroyed, leaving around 500,000 people homeless, 55 health facilities are piles of rubble, nine bridges are down and 162 roads are in urgent need of repair.
In a display of humanitarian muscle the United States has sent in a ship equipped with helicopters to help with the logistical struggle to shift the huge amounts of aid required. The aid effort is gathering pace and much more visible as aid teams fan out to the villages of a wide-spread ground zero.
Aid was being delivered in the immediate aftermath of the quake. The first few days of a disaster are crucial. In that time it is nearly impossible to get supplies in. Tele-communications are down, airports closed, roadways blocked. The smart money is spent on having aid there ready to go before the humanitarian cavalry has time to arrive. But deciding where to place emergency aid stocks is tricky.