In­done­sia reels after dual dis­as­ter

Hunger and thirst loom after earth­quake and tsunami strike Su­lawesi

The Guardian Weekly - - International News - Han­nah El­lis-Pe­tersen

Anger and des­per­a­tion were grow­ing in parts of Su­lawesi this week where res­i­dents were with­out food and drink­ing wa­ter for at least four days after the In­done­sian is­land was dev­as­tated by an earth­quake and a tsunami.

By Tues­day the of­fi­cial death toll from the dis­as­ter had risen to 1,234, ac­cord­ing to dis­as­ter agency spokesman Su­topo Purwo Nu­groho. It was ex­pected to climb steeply.

Signs propped along roads in Su­lawesi read “We Need Food” and “We Need Sup­port”, while chil­dren begged for cash in the streets. Queues for fuel, which has al­most run out in the area, were kilo­me­tres long and the na­tional po­lice and troops were de­ployed to guard petrol sta­tions and food shops.

The 7.5-mag­ni­tude quake struck last Fri­day, caus­ing a tsunami that ripped apart the coast­line at Palu, on the is­land of Su­lawesi. It struck as evening prayers were about to be­gin in the Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­try. A fes­ti­val was tak­ing place on the beach in Palu.

Jan Gelfand, the head of the Red Cross of­fice in Jakarta, said res­cue teams were hav­ing to find “cre­ative ways” to try to reach vic­tims in re­mote ar­eas. It had dis­patched 25 wa­ter tankers to the coastal area, but she said this was “a drop in the bucket to what the need is”.

She added: “Our teams took 12 to 15 hours to get in and so it is go­ing to be a while be­fore even the as­sess­ment is done be­fore we get a true pic­ture of the sit­u­a­tion.”

Around 50,000 peo­ple have been dis­placed by the twin dis­as­ter, with many still try­ing to es­cape the dev­as­tated re­gion. Over 3,000 peo­ple flocked to Palu’s air­port on Mon­day, try­ing to board mil­i­tary air­craft or one of the few com­mer­cial flights leav­ing the air­port, which has suf­fered se­vere dam­age. Video footage showed crowds scream­ing in anger be­cause they were not able to get on a mil­i­tary plane.

“We have not eaten for three days,” one woman yelled. “We just want to be safe.”

Des­per­a­tion ex­ploded into anger in Dong­gala, the town clos­est to the epi­cen­tre of the mas­sive earth­quake and tsunami, with res­i­dents beg­ging In­done­sia’s pres­i­dent to help them as hun­gry sur­vivors crawled into stores and grabbed boxes of food.

“Pay at­ten­tion to Dong­gala, Mr Jokowi. Pay at­ten­tion to Dong­gala,” yelled one res­i­dent in footage broad­cast on lo­cal tele­vi­sion, re­fer­ring to pres­i­dent Joko “Jokowi” Wi­dodo. “There are still a lot of unat­tended vil­lages here.”

Most of the at­ten­tion so far has fo­cused on the big­gest af­fected city, Palu. Dong­gala and other out­ly­ing ar­eas have re­ceived lit­tle as­sis­tance largely due to im­pass­able roads and many have been forced to take food from stores.

“Ev­ery­one is hun­gry and they want to eat after sev­eral days of not eat­ing,” said Dong­gala’s ad­min­is­tra­tion head Kas­man Lassa. “We have an­tic­i­pated it by pro­vid­ing food, rice, but it was not enough. There are many peo­ple here. So, on this is­sue, we can­not pres­sure them to hold much longer.”

Last Sun­day night, the cen­tral Su­lawesi ad­min­is­tra­tion de­clared a 14-day state of emer­gency. Su­topo said this would en­able “both the re­gional and na­tional govern­ment to mo­bilise per­son­nel, lo­gis­tics, equip­ment as well as money to ful­fil the needs of the af­fected area and peo­ple”.

On Mon­day, in Ulu­jadi district in western Palu, res­i­dents de­prived of food and wa­ter blocked roads to in­ter­cept trucks car­ry­ing food sup­plies, with po­lice of­fi­cers re­port­edly un­able to re­strain the crowds. In Tawaeli district in cen­tral Palu, crowds gathered at the port to in­ter­cept govern­ment aid ar­riv­ing on boats.

The process be­gan on Mon­day of bury­ing the bodies, which had be­gun pil­ing up in the lo­cal army hos­pi­tal, in a mass grave mea­sur­ing 100 me­tres long. Pho­tos were taken of the corpses be­fore they were buried so they could be iden­ti­fied by rel­a­tives.

Su­topo ad­mit­ted that search teams were still strug­gling to reach and evac­u­ate the worst-hit ar­eas in Su­lawesi. Many in Palu com­plained bit­terly at the fail­ure of res­cue teams, over­whelmed by the scale of the cri­sis, to make it to their neigh­bour­hood in time.

By Tues­day many peo­ple were be­lieved to still be trapped un­der shat­tered houses in Palu’s Balaroa neigh­bour­hood, where the earth­quake caused the ground to heave up and down vi­o­lently.

Pres­i­dent Wi­dodo urged sur­vivors to be pa­tient as they waited for aid to be dis­trib­uted upon ar­riv­ing in Palu.

Mah­mut Ata­nur/Getty

As­sis­tance has been slow to reach re­mote re­gions

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.