Stunned by days of rioting, Indonesians emerged from their homes Saturday and surveyed the debris-filled streets of their shattered, blackened capital. Thousands of soldiers in tanks and armored personnel carriers patrolled the city amid an uneasy calm.
Hundreds of stores were stripped bare, and many had been set on fire. Thousands of windows were smashed by rocks and automatic teller machines had been ripped from walls and emptied. The streets were strewn with shattered glass and littered with burned-out cars.Awed by the immensity of the damage and a death toll of 500 from arson fires at malls and other unrest, some feared violence will explode again if the authoritarian President Suharto fails to ease his 32-year grip on power soon.
Suharto promised on Saturday to reshuffle his Cabinet, now dominated by his daughter and close friends. Indonesians, beset by rampant inflation and growing poverty, are likely to see such a move as purely cosmetic.
Armed forces spokesman Gen. Wahab Mokodongan issued a statement saying that the death toll had "topped 499." Most were looters trapped in a series of shopping mall fires. The military also said more than 1,000 rioters and looters had been arrested.
No demonstrations had been planned for Saturday and the presence of the 10,000 troops Suharto ordered to the streets a day earlier seems to have had a calming effect on the capital city of 11 million.
Still, droves of foreigners, including about 1,600 Americans, continued to flee Jakarta on evacuation flights organized by their worried governments.
Multinational companies were chartering their own flights, one of which swerved off the runway in neighboring Singapore and broke its wing. Three people were hospitalized.
The exodus followed some of the worst rioting to wrack the city in decades, led by mobs fed up with economic hardship and students wanting political change.
The government Saturday night banned private television broadcasters from airing their own reports about the demonstrations, ordering them to use footage from the government-run station.
There was no fresh rioting to broadcast. The government station showed footage of the destroyed capital, but no scenes from the previous unrest.
As the crisis wears on, the 76-year-old Suharto has repeatedly said he's willing to step aside if Indonesians want him to go, but only according to a convoluted constitutional process that could take months to complete.
Critics think little of his offer.