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After Days of Praying, Farmer Pulled from Earthquake Rubble

October 9, 1995

SUNGAIPENUH, Indonesia (AP) _ Pinned beneath a wooden beam, the farmer drifted in and out of consciousness for nearly three days, too weak to call for help even when he heard people digging nearby. All he could do was pray.

On Monday, his prayers were answered. ``Allah has spared me,″ said Bachtiar, 37, after soldiers lifted him from the ruins of his house.

Bachtiar’s thigh was smashed, dried blood caked his head and he was almost too weak to speak.

But he was alive, the first survivor found in the rubble since an earthquake early Saturday tore through this remote valley on Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, killing more than 100 people and seriously injuring nearly 700.

``I heard people digging and hammering yesterday, but was too weak to call out for help,″ Bachtiar, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, whispered to reporters before he was taken to a hospital.

He said he was pinned by a roof beam as his wife and four children escaped from their collapsing brick-and-wood house.

``I blacked out,″ he said. ``When I woke up, everything was piled over me, but I could breathe easily and hear noises.″

Despite their elation at finding a survivor, soldiers had to suspend their search shortly after because of a torrential downpour.

``The area has become muddy and slippery, making it dangerous and difficult to work,″ said Lt. Suhardi, the head of the rescue team. ``And there is also the danger of landslides.″

Suhardi said it made more sense to repair power lines, set up tents for the survivors and distribute food and medicine.

Officials, who said more than 100 people were killed in the quake, had found 80 bodies. They draped them in white shrouds, carted them to the edge of town and buried them in mass graves to prevent the spread of disease.

Doctors warned that bad sanitation and the lack of clean water could spread waterborne diseases.

``If this is not handled properly, we will have diarrhea or even cholera in the next few days,″ said Dr. Surya Iskandar, head of the public hospital in Sungaipenuh, 10 miles from the quake’s epicenter.

Since the earthquake, the city of 40,000 has become a refugee camp as well as the staging post for search and rescue operations. Doctors from Jakarta, the capital, treat victims flown in from outlying villages in the city’s two hospitals.

Iskandar said some survivors had developed respiratory problems because they were sleeping outside in the cold. Hundreds of refugees camped along roadsides and in open fields.

``We dare not go back to our home,″ said Salmi, a mother of three. ``We are afraid of the aftershocks.″

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