Tourism on Nias island is in a state of ruin as the monster earthquake of March 28 damaged almost 90 percent of tourism infrastructure in the area, a senior government official said on Thursday.

The most damaged tourist spots are Sorake and Lagundri beaches, said Ezra Munthe, the head of the North Sumatra administration’s culture and tourism office.

The two locations are famous surf beaches, particularly popular with Australia surfers, as the waves at Sorake and Lagundri can reach as high as seven meters. Surfing competitions are often held on Sorake beach.

Ezra said that Sorake and Lagundri beaches were still great spots for surfing but tourists were staying away as the infrastructure, such as homestays, shops etc., had been damaged by the 8.7-magnitude quake.

Residents also fled to higher ground following the quake for fear of a possible tsunami triggered by the aftershocks.

The situation in Bao Matoduo subdistrict, South Nias regency, which is popular with tourists due to its traditional houses, is similar.

Almost all traditional houses, some of them aged 400 years, are still standing, but the area has been deserted by terrified residents.

Ezra said the North Sumatra administration hoped the tourist industry would recover within two years.

“The rebuilding process will take a long time. It’s not just reconstruction programs that are involved, we must also help the earthquake victims, many of whom are afraid to return home,” said Ezra.

Ezra declined to comment on how much money is needed to rebuild Nias’ tourist industry.

According to a decree issued by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the government has earmarked Rp 2.097 trillion (US$233 million) in funds to carry out reconstruction and rehabilitation work in Nias and South Nias regencies.

Source: The Jakarta Post – www.thejakartapost.com – April 23, 2005

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