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(3/10/2007) Mark it off to "March madness," but the first full week of March 2007 was full of woe for the Indonesian nation. To wit:
• The week began with massive landslides on Flores that claimed over 40 lives and left over 1,000 homeless on the remote island far down the chain of the Lesser Sunda islands to Bali's East.
• National attention shifted to the West and the island of Sumatra on Tuesday, March 6, 2007, where a series two large earthquake and hundred of aftershocks shook the region surrounding Padang and Bukit Tinngi. The quakes, felt far away in Singapore where workers fled their office buildings, claimed more than 70 lives and caused scores of injuries in West Sumatra
• The almost-daily "dose" of bad news continued on Wednesday, March 7, 2007, with the early morning crash of a Garuda Airline B737-400 at Yogyakarta's airport, near Central Java, in which 22 people died. Both Indonesian and Australian authorities continue to investigate the accident with all parties discounting that sabotage or terrorism played any part in the tragedy.
• Bali, which by virtue of distance had thus far managed to escape unscathed from the week's tragedies, suffered strong winds whipped up by Tropical Cyclone George in Australia on Thursday, March 8, 2007. Those winds caused trees to uproot in several locations around the island, killing at least 5 locals and the temporary closure of ferry service to Bali from both Java and Lombok.
• With Cyclone Jacob moving across the Indian Ocean towards Australia's Northern Territory, Bali's weather forecasters are warning Bali to expect more strong peripheral winds and large waves.
An Island Largely Unscathed, But Not Untouched
While a lack of international sophistication on the subject of Indonesian geography causes many to think a problem happening anywhere in Indonesia as automatically affecting the entire nation, the truth of the matter is far different. In a country equal in breadth to the entire United States and comprised of 17,508 islands, Bali was far removed physically, if not emotionally, from last week's disasters in Sumatra, Java and Flores.
Explaining the "geographical factor" in assessing the impact of Indonesian disasters, Michael Burchett, Chairman of the Bali Hotel Association (BHA), said: "While Bali is separated by many mile from the three disasters that have befallen the Republic in rapid succession over the past week, the people of the Island are shocked and deeply grieved by the suffering and loss of their fellow Indonesians. From among the more than 22,000 employees working in the member hotels of the BHA, we have representatives from almost every cultural and ethnic group that make up the rich and colorful fabric of Indonesian society. Because of this and as in past tragedies, the members of the BHA are reaching out to console and offer assistance to employees who have suffered the loss of family members and friends or lost their homes in any of the recent tragic events."
Burchett who is General Manager of the Conrad Bali Resort & Spa and the BHA - a professional group of more than 74 star-rated hotels and resorts in Bali, added: "while including all those who have suffered losses in our prayers the BHA is also pro-actively contacting its members to collect aid and material support for the victims of these events, particularly for the people of Sumatra and Flores who have lost their homes or businesses. While efforts are underway to gather blankets, towels and serviceable bedding from Bali hotels who belong to BHA, we are liaising with local charitable organizations to determine the most efficient and effective way to distribute aid and relief supplies."
According to reports received from member hotels of the BHA, many guests currently on holiday in Bali watching TV reports of the three tragedies have approached hotel staff and managers asking how they could personally contribute to relief efforts. Appreciative of the concern for the plight of fellow Indonesian shown by their guests, the BHA is recommending that those wish to assist relief efforts channel donations through the International Red Cross or contact one of following branches of the Indonesian Red Cross located in the general vicinity of the Flores and Sumatra natural disasters:
Palang Merah Indonesia (Indonesian Red Cross) - Jalan Dr. Wahidin No. 3, Padang, West Sumatra 25138, INDONESIA -Telephone ++62-(0)751-27882
East Nusa Tenggara
Palang Merah Indonesia (Indonesian Red Cross) - Jalan Jend. Suharto No. 71°, Kupang, Nusa Tenggara Timur 85117, INDONESIA - Telephone ++62-(0)380-826360 - Facsimile ++62-(0)380-821705.