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Oxfam scales up operations in earthquake-shattered Nias

Banda Aceh: As the extent of the damage on the Indonesian island of Nias becomes clearer, International aid agency Oxfam is scaling up its operations. 75,000 people are estimated to remain without shelter and the Oxfam team reports that as aftershocks continue people are still terrified. Many remain in the hills, in fear of a tsunami and up to 20,000 have already fled the island – but most people have not the resources to get to the mainland.

Oxfam had a team from the Tsunami response programme in Aceh on the island within 12 hours of the earthquake hitting Nias. We now have a total of 73 staff in Nias, 60 of them from the island, and have succeeded in setting up emergency water supplies for much of the island's major town, Gunungsitoli.

Oxfam has become lead agency on Nias for water and sanitation and our engineers are now working with the local water authority to restore the town's shattered mains system.

"We're getting on top of the problems in the main town," says Gareth Price Jones, Oxfam International's project manager on Gunungsitoli. "But we have to get into the interior of the island and find out what's going on. There are 10,000 people in Lahewa, in the north-west, with no water. Today, we managed to get a team up there. We think we can get that fixed with a couple of days' work."

Casualties from the earthquake now number about 600. However, it has been difficult to visit and assess the villages in the mountainous interior because roads were severely damaged by the earthquake.

In addition to our work on water, Oxfam and its Indonesian partner agencies have distributed five tonnes of rice, as well as clothing, blankets and jerry cans for 5000 people. We've provided emergency shelter for 2,250 people and evacuated many critically injured by helicopter.

Over the coming days Oxfam will be distributing a further 1000 shelter kits in rural areas and completing assessments across the north that will tell us how best to bring help to the rural population.

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