The aid effort: Rescue response 'not up to crisis'

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The Independent Online

As aid organisations from around the world mobilised to help the victims of the Sumatra disaster yesterday, a UN official warned that the emergency efforts so far were inadequate for the scale of the problem.

"Compared to the extent of the damage, there should be more equipment, more people to do this," said Titi Moektijasih from the UN Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Efforts to improve the flow of aid were hampered at first by damage to the airport.

Oxfam's country director in Indonesia, Antonia Potter, said the disaster was in a category of "a very serious emergency" affecting "anywhere from 50,000 to 500,000 people", and could possibly be elevated later to the organisation's most severe range. The toll would rise significantly, Ms Potter said, since Padang is "a very densely packed urban area, much more so than any earthquake that has recently been experienced [in the country]."

International organisations are dedicating aid to support the Indonesian government, which has already sent in rescue teams and supplies. Oxfam has pre-positioned stocks of emergency supplies in the city, including hygiene kits, clothes and tarpaulins.

A team of UK search and rescue experts was on its way to Indonesia last night, the Department for International Development (DFID) said.

Firefighters and staff from UK aid agencies were taking specialist rescue equipment with them on the Government-chartered flight.

The 60-strong team of firefighters includes personnel from the West Midlands, Hampshire, Leicestershire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Lincolnshire, Lancashire, Kent, Essex, West Sussex and Wales.