Aceh bureaucracy back in
action less 900 employess

Ruslan Sangaji, The Jakarta Post, Banda Aceh

Nearly two weeks after an earthquake and ensuing tsunamis hit Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam on Dec. 26, the Aceh gubernatorial office recommenced its activities on Thursday.

Only 468 civil servants attended a modest ceremony in the office's front yard, held to mark the first day back of the Aceh administration.

Before the ceremony, they hugged each other and cried, as the fate of some 900 of their colleagues, or almost two thirds of Aceh's civil servants, remains unknown.

The ceremony was also attended by 200 senior students (praja) of the Jakarta-based Home Affairs Administration Institute (IPDN), who have been assigned by the central government to help revive the administration after the catastrophe that killed more than 94,000 people in Indonesia, mostly in Aceh.

The home affairs ministry has also assigned a number of middle-ranking officials to support the Aceh administration.

Aceh Deputy Governor Azwar Abubakar, who led the ceremony, said that the resumption of the administration's activities would help the oil and gas-rich province return to normal life.

""Thank God, some 60 percent of the office building can be used (for work),"" he said, referring to the Aceh gubernatorial office in the provincial capital, which is located some six kilometers away from the coast.

A wall of water from the tsunamis inundated the first floor of the office, destroying documents and equipment belonging to the finance bureau.

However, the office's second and third floors escaped damage, as did documents and office equipment located on those floors.

Azwar said his administration would perform its duties on the second and third floors.

Elsewhere in Banda Aceh, the number of motorcycles and cars on the capital's main roads had started to increase on Thursday. Several markets, shops and coffee stalls reopened, attracting crowds.

""I'm confused about what to do. But what I know is that we must be able to endure these difficulties, we must go on,"" Sudirman, a butcher who has reopened his off-street meat stall, was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Several tremors on Thursday caused panic among the people, who vowed to survive and rebuild their lives.

Meanwhile, volunteers and soldiers continue their efforts to evacuate bodies. According to an official in Aceh, as many as 74,666 bodies had been buried as of Thursday morning.

Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Alwi Shihab -- who has been assigned by the President to stay in Banda Aceh to oversee relief work -- predicted more dead victims under building debris and logs in several locations in the city that had not yet been touched.

Alwi said the government has also decided to increase ferry trips between Singkil in nearby North Sumatra and Simelue island from twice a week to three times a week in a bid to distribute aid to the island, which is located the closest to the epicenter of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake.

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