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Marines join Indonesia quake relief

Fear of health crisis eases as aid arrives

BANTUL, Indonesia -- US Marines joined an international effort yesterday to deliver aid and medical equipment to some 200,000 Indonesians left homeless by a devastating earthquake, as hopes faded of finding more survivors.

Two US Marine cargo planes carrying a mobile field hospital landed in Yogyakarta, closest to the quake area in central Java, after cracks in the airport runway were patched.

A disaster assistance response team from the US Agency for International Development is being readied, and the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, which has extensive medical facilities, is en route to the area, White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.

The United States also increased its aid contribution to $5 million.

The United Nations said at least 21 other countries have joined the effort to help those left homeless by Saturday's magnitude-6.3 quake, which killed nearly 5,700 people.

As medical aid began to arrive, the threat of a health crisis appeared to ease.

At two hospitals in Bantul, the hardest-hit district, parking lots and hallways that were filled with hundreds of injured in the days after the quake were clear, with most patients now being treated in beds.

Workers removed a tent from the parking lot at Yogyakarta's largest hospital, Sardjito, that had been used to shelter patients.

The UN's top humanitarian official said the aid effort was going well, and there had been major improvements in coordination among aid organizations and nations since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 131,000 people in Indonesia's Aceh Province alone.

``We are now reaching more and more victims," Jan Egeland said in Brussels. ``I am getting reports that we are making enormous progress."

The government's Social Affairs Ministry said the official death toll rose yesterday to 5,698 as officials account for bodies buried quickly in mass graves after the quake.

Most survivors were still living in improvised shacks or group shelters erected in rice fields.

The head of a Malaysia search and rescue team said hope had faded of finding more survivors or bodies, and his group had turned to clearing rubble from streets instead.

A 44-member team of Chinese doctors, search and rescue workers, and seismologists also arrived with five tons of supplies, including a field hospital, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Thailand said it would send 48 military medical personnel, medicine, and equipment.

Teams from Malaysia, Singapore, Norway, and other nations already are working in the area.

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