In­done­sians search for bod­ies of quake

The Miracle - - Front Page -

Res­cue work­ers in In­done­sia stepped up their search on Wed­nes­day for vic­tims of a cat­a­strophic earth­quake and tsunami, hop­ing to find as many bod­ies as they can be­fore the dead­line for their work to halt. The na­tional dis­as­ter mit­i­ga­tion agency has called off the search start­ing on Thurs­day cit­ing con­cern about the spread of disease. De­bris will be cleared and ar­eas where bod­ies lie will even­tu­ally be turned into parks, sports venues and memo­ri­als. The of­fi­cial death toll from the twin dis­as­ters stood at 2,010. Per­haps as many as 5,000 vic­tims of the 7.5-mag­ni­tude quake and tsunami on Septem­ber 28 have yet to be found, most of them en­tombed in flows of mud flows that surged from the ground when the quake agi­tated the soil into a liq­uid mire. Most of the bod­ies have been found in the sea­side city of Palu, on the west coast of Su­lawesi is­land, 1,500km north­east of the cap­i­tal, Jakarta. More than 10,000 res­cue work­ers are scour­ing ex­panses of de­bris, es­pe­cially in three ar­eas oblit­er­ated by soil liq­ue­fac­tion in the south of the small city. “We’re not sure what will hap­pen af­ter­wards so we’re try­ing to work as fast as pos­si­ble,” said res­cue worker Ah­mad Amin, 29, re­fer­ring to Thurs­day’s dead­line, as he took a break in the badly hit Balaroa neigh­bour­hood. At least nine ex­ca­va­tors were work­ing through the rub­ble of Balaroa, pick­ing their way through smashed build­ings and pum­meled ve­hi­cles. At least a dozen bod­ies were re­cov­ered, a Reuters news agency pho­tog­ra­pher said. “There are so many chil­dren still miss­ing, we want to find them quickly,” said Amin, who is from Balaroa and has rel­a­tives un­ac­counted for. “It doesn’t mat­ter if it’s my fam­ily or not, the im­por­tant thing is that we find as many as we can.” The de­ci­sion to end the search has an­gered some rel­a­tives of the miss­ing, but taxi driver Rudy Rah­man, 40, said he had to ac­cept it. “As long as they keep search­ing, I will be here ev­ery day look­ing for my son,” said Rah­man, who said he lost three sons in the dis­as­ter. The bod­ies of two were found, the youngest is miss­ing. “This is the only thing I can do, oth­er­wise I would go in­sane,” he said, chok­ing back tears. “If they stop what can I do? There are four me­tres of soil here. I couldn’t do it on my own.” While In­done­sian work­ers searched, the dis­as­ter agency or­dered in­de­pen­dent for­eign aid work­ers to leave the quake zone. In­done­sia has tra­di­tion­ally been re­luc­tant to be seen as re­ly­ing on out­side help to cope with dis­as­ters, and the gov­ern­ment shunned for­eign aid this year when earth­quakes struck the is­land of Lom­bok. But it has ac­cepted help from abroad to cope with the Su­lawesi dis­as­ter. The dis­as­ter agency, in a no­tice posted on Twit­ter, set the rules out for for­eign non-govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions (NGOs), say­ing they were not al­lowed to “go di­rectly to the field” and could only work with “lo­cal part­ners”. “For­eign cit­i­zens who are work­ing with for­eign NGOs are not al­lowed to con­duct any ac­tiv­ity on the sites,” it said, adding for­eign NGOs with peo­ple de­ployed should with­draw them im­me­di­ately. A few for­eign aid work­ers have been in the dis­as­ter zone, in­clud­ing a team from the group Pom­piers Hu­man­i­taires Fran­cais that searched for sur­vivors, but they have spo­ken of dif­fi­cul­ties in get­ting en­try per­mits and au­tho­ri­sa­tion. “This is the first time we en­coun­tered such dif­fi­culty in ac­tu­ally get­ting to do our work,” team leader Ar­naud Al­lib­ert said, adding they were leav­ing on Wed­nes­day as their help was no longer needed. In­done­sian gov­ern­ments are wary of be­ing too open to out­side help be­cause they could face crit­i­cism from po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents, and there is par­tic­u­lar re­sis­tance to the pres­ence of for­eign mil­i­tary per­son­nel, as it could be seen as an in­fringe­ment of sovereignty. “There are po­lit­i­cal sen­si­tiv­i­ties, es­pe­cially with an elec­tion com­ing up, and sovereignty is an­other is­sue,” said Keith Loveard, a se­nior an­a­lyst with ad­vi­sory and risk firm Con­cord Con­sult­ing, re­fer­ring to polls due next year. Su­lawesi is one of In­done­sia’s five main islands. The archipelago sees fre­quent earth­quakes and oc­ca­sional tsunami. In 2004, a quake off Su­ma­tra is­land trig­gered a tsunami across the In­dian Ocean that killed 226,000 peo­ple in 13 coun­tries, in­clud­ing more than 120,000 in In­done­sia.

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