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Americans Still Flee Jakarta

May 17, 1998

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Sirens blared from an armed police convoy that escorted two bus loads of Americans to the last U.S. government-chartered flight out of the Indonesian capital Sunday.

A sense of urgency gripped the 70 expatriates. Many said they feared that a weekend lull from violent rioting probably meant the worst was still to come.

``There’s a lot of smoldering energy still beneath the surface,″ said George Lattimore. ``I don’t see status quo coming back just yet.″

More than 1,000 Americans and thousands of other expatriates have fled Indonesia in the past two days.

Dozens said their fear was fueled by rumors that student demonstrations scheduled for Wednesday, the anniversary of Indonesia’s independence movement, would draw crowds from around the nation and possibly spark more of the rioting and looting that have left more than 500 dead.

Dan Melwani, an exporter, said the burned-out buildings and indiscriminate violence he witnessed in the four days of Jakarta riots reminded him of the 1992 riots in Los Angeles.

``But here, it was worse. Here the police watched as the mob ruled,″ said Melwani, 31, adding, ``I heard the situation Wednesday is going to be really bad.″

Sunday’s jetliner, chartered by the United States and Canada, was bound for Singapore. One final flight was scheduled to leave Monday from Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city. Commercial flights to nearby foreign cities have been booked for days, prompting several governments to charter flights for their citizens.

Japan’s government urged its citizens Sunday to leave Indonesia as soon as possible and chartered 13 flights to evacuate as many as 3,500 by Tuesday, a day before the large-scale demonstrations.

``There is an anniversary on Wednesday,″ Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto was quoted as saying by the Kyodo News agency. ``If you take that into consideration, the time is nearing for us to step up (action).″

Bill Bruihler, an American teacher, said he planned to stay far away from Indonesia until the next school term.

The quiet that has settled over Jakarta for the last two days made him second guess his impulse to run, Bruihler said. ``But it’s been strangely quiet, and that scares me.″

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