Earthquake rumors unnerve traumatized Bantul residents

Earthquake rumors unnerve traumatized Bantul residents

Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Bantul, Yogyakarta

Rumors of a powerful earthquake and tsunami have rattled residents of Bantul, Yogyakarta, over the last several days.

The people of Bantul are particularly vulnerable to such rumors because of the devastation they experienced in last May’s massive quake.

Since the rumors began spreading some residents have fled their homes, others are remaining awake 24 hours a day for fear a quake might hit.

“My son insisted on sleeping right next to the front door last night because of the rumor. He said it would be easier for us to get out of our house in case the rumor proved true,” Sri Rejeki, 37, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Sri, a resident of Dodotan hamlet, Sumbermulyo village, said she and her son heard about the rumor from a neighbor, who claimed to have read an article about the predicted earthquake on the internet.

“I tried not to panic, but my son, who survived when our home collapsed last year, has been unable to stop himself from panicking,” said Sri, talking about the second-year junior high school student.

Sri said a neighbor, a 70-year-old woman, had left her house earlier Wednesday because of the rumor.

“She is now staying at a relative’s house in Sewon,” said Sri, referring to an area several kilometers from the beach and about six kilometers from their village.

Singgir Kartana, 39, of Samen hamlet, also in Sumbermulyo village, said rumors of a major earthquake had been making the rounds since the anniversary on May 27 of last year’s quake.

“I received a printed copy of a story about the rumored quake while attending the ceremony to commemorate the first anniversary of the earthquake last month, but I burned it because I was afraid it would cause panic among other villagers,” he told the Post.

He said many villagers had been sleeping outdoors since hearing the rumor.

“Some people have also said they will spend the night in shelters they have made from bamboo,” said Singgir.

Karti, 60, also a resident of Samen, said many of her neighbors had stopped going to the market, preferring to remain close to home in the event of an earthquake.

An official at Al-Aqrob Mosque in the hamlet, Ambyah Karti Pratomo, on Wednesday attempted to calm the villagers over the mosque’s loudspeakers.

“I just wanted to remind the villagers that everything is in the hands of Allah. We never know what will happen. It’s part of Allah’s secrets. There is no need to panic. What is important is that we stay cautious and surrender everything to the hands of Allah.”

Meanwhile, thousands of people fled their homes in panic on various coastal areas in East Nusa Tenggara after hoax text messages spread warning them that a tsunami will hit the region, journalists and officials said Wednesday.

“The possibility is that a tsunami may take place on June 7,” said part of a short telephone text message (SMS) that is widely circulating in the province, local journalists said.

A check of several coastal districts in the province showed that thousands had left their homes on the coast in at least three districts to flee to higher grounds since Tuesday, they said.

In the Kodi subdistrict of West Sumba district, hundreds of people had fled away from the coast, the local subdistrict head, Bernard Pelle told AFP.

“Rumors are running strong in the district that a tsunami will strike the region on June 7,” Pelle said.

The regional meteorology and geophysics office said that the SMS warning did not come from their office.

“Earthquakes and tsunami cannot be predicted and we have not issued such warning,” office head Rivai Marulak told AFP.

However, most residents refused to return to their coastal home fearing if the rumor should come true, the journalist added.

http://www.thejakartapost.com/detailnational.asp?fileid=20070607.G01&irec=0

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