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US troops ramp up Indonesia quake relief

American troops set up a field hospital and rerouted ships to aid victims of a powerful earthquake that left hundreds of thousands homeless, in their largest relief operation in Muslim-majority Indonesia since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

world Updated: Oct 07, 2009 08:11 IST

American troops set up a field hospital and rerouted ships to aid victims of a powerful earthquake that left hundreds of thousands homeless, in their largest relief operation in Muslim-majority Indonesia since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

The expansion of the US mission comes as efforts shifted from searching for survivors amid the rubble to providing relief to villages that have been cut off by massive landslides generated by last week's magnitude-7.6 quake.

Aid workers from at least 20 countries focused on caring for the homeless, who huddled in makeshift shelters and cooked meagre meals of rice and noodles over open fires or ate vegetables from their fields.

Rear Adm Richard Landolt, who arrived yesterday in Padang, the largest city in the quake zone, told The Associated Press that three US Navy ships were on their way, full of supplies, food and heavy equipment that can be used to clear roads and excavate collapsed buildings.

"There is a huge valve that is about to turn on," he said. "There is going to be a terrific ramp-up of operations out here."

Landolt said two naval ships were expected to arrive in the next day or so. A supply ship has also been cleared to begin operations with four helicopters large enough to carry 30-40 people or equipment to areas that cannot be reached by land, he said.