Page last updated at 19:09 GMT, Thursday, 13 September 2007 20:09 UK

Families wait in fear in ruined Sumatra

Villagers stay on a hill after their houses were damaged by an earthquake in North Bengkulu
Many families in North Bengkulu are now living under emergency tents

The BBC's Lucy Williamson reports from North Bengkulu, on Indonesia's island of Sumatra, where people are spending a second night in the open after a series of earthquakes.

The road in North Bengkulu is freshly scarred.

Cracks split the asphalt - sporadic at first, then more regular, widening into gashes several centimetres across.

By the time you reach the district of Lais, the imprint of the tremors is laid bare.

Buildings gutted

On all sides houses are flattened, buildings gutted, their remains clustered by the roadside. Tarpaulins have been strung up to house the area's new refugees.

It is getting dark when we come across Ibu Rosdanyar.

The Muslim fasting month has just begun here and Ibu Rosdanyar is preparing to break the day's fast with her neighbour and their two families.

They gather around the tarpaulin strung in front of the ruins of her house. Three shattered walls surround a heap of rubble.

This home was my palace and now it's gone
Ibu Rosdanyar

"What can I say," she says, as a wood fire is lit by the road, and the youngest of her children starts to grizzle.

"This home was my palace and now it's gone."

Twelve people will shelter under the small tarpaulin tonight - four adults and their eight children, all homeless for a second night.

They have no electricity, and no word from the local government on when aid might reach them.

Aid badly needed

Aid has arrived in Bengkulu city centre, but it has not yet reached areas like this, where it is badly needed.

A woman salvages items from her home after the recent earthquakes
The North Bengkulu area was badly hit with half the area destroyed

The earthquakes of the last 24 hours have hit hard here.

The UN estimates thousands of houses were destroyed in North Bengkulu. But so far the casualties have been very few.

Incredibly, in none of the villages we visited was anyone killed or seriously hurt.

The UN has sent a team to Bengkulu and is co-ordinating with the government and NGOs here.

But gathering information from some areas has been slow.

Driving back through Lais, we meet a group of men searching for plastic sheets to shield them for the night.

They tell us they are waiting for aid to arrive, especially tents, food and water.

"We have only a couple of days' worth of food left," one man told me.

I asked him which was his house. He pointed to one of those still standing.

"There is some damage," he said, "and that is part of the reason I'm sleeping out here. But it's also that I'm just too scared to go back inside."

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