Un­cer­tainty in shel­ters af­ter In­done­sia quake as deaths rise

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Asean Focus -

PEO­PLE liv­ing in tents and shel­ters have lit­tle but un­cer­tainty since the pow­er­ful earth­quake and tsunami hit an In­done­sian is­land, where deaths ex­ceed 1400 and ef­forts to re­trieve scores more vic­tims buried deep in mud and rub­ble were still ham­pered Thurs­day by the lack of heavy equip­ment.

Thou­sands more peo­ple were in­jured in the dis­as­ters in cen­tral Su­lawesi last Fri­day and more than 70,000 were dis­placed from homes that were de­stroyed or dam­aged and lack power and wa­ter.

They are un­sure when they’ll be able to re­build and have been spend­ing hours each day, of­ten fu­tilely, try­ing to se­cure ne­ces­si­ties such as fuel for gen­er­a­tors.

Most of the 1424 con­firmed dead have been buried, and na­tional dis­as­ter agency spokesman Supoto Purwo Nu­groho said at a news con­fer­ence in Jakarta that the search ef­fort is be­ing in­ten­si­fied, in­clud­ing at a col­lapsed ho­tel in the city of Palu where a South Korean is be­lieved trapped.

The num­ber of dead is ex­pected to rise fur­ther as res­cue crew comb through af­fected ar­eas af­ter be­ing slowed ini­tially by bro­ken, im­pass­able roads and other dam­age.

Nu­groho said the search ef­forts were tough in ar­eas where swathes of land col­lapsed when the quake caused a phe­nom­e­non called liq­ue­fac­tion, where loose, wet soil loses its strength and sinks in a quick­san­d­like ef­fect. Sur­vivors have de­scribed homes and rel­a­tives be­ing lost in the mud where liq­ue­fac­tion oc­curred.

In one area, 202 hectares of land were swal­lowed whole by the ground while an­other 180 hectares of land in an­other vil­lage sank, bury­ing 168 houses in mud 3 me­tres deep, he said.

Two dozen dig­gers and heavy ma­chin­ery are work­ing to dig vic­tims out and more help is on the way, he said.

Palu res­i­dent Bam­bang said many vic­tims could have sur­vived if help ar­rived faster.

He told lo­cal tele­vi­sion that he found a friend in­jured and trapped un­der de­bris while search­ing for his preg­nant wife but was un­able to help him.

The friend died af­ter leav­ing a mes­sage to have him buried in front of the church, he said.

“He was still alive then, but he died be­cause the evac­u­a­tion was so slow,” said Bam­bang, who uses on name.

Na­tional po­lice spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prase­tyo said se­cu­rity will be ramped up in the dis­as­ter ar­eas af­ter 92 peo­ple were ar­rested for loot­ing goods such as mo­tor oil, tyres and farm­ing equip­ment.

Au­thor­i­ties ear­lier al­lowed des­per­ate vil­lagers to grab food sup­plies from shops but have warned them not to take other things. He noted that se­cu­rity would be nec­es­sary for eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity to re­sume.

At one of the re­lief camps, Andi Rus­d­ing hud­dled with nu­mer­ous fam­ily mem­bers un­der a tar­pau­lin, say­ing they’d got­ten some aid but felt short­changed.

“Please tell the gov­ern­ment and the NGOS if they’re re­ally will­ing to help us with some foods please do not give it away through the com­mand posts,” he said.

“It is bet­ter to go di­rectly to each and ev­ery tent. Be­cause some­time (the re­lief goods) didn’t dis­trib­ute evenly.”

Mas­rita Arifin said she couldn’t even de­scribe her liv­ing con­di­tions in the camp, just a few hun­dred me­tres from her fam­ily’s heav­ily dam­aged home.

“It’s re­ally dif­fi­cult to find wa­ter and we don’t have a place to shower, but thank God we got some aid from the gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing a med­i­cal checkup.”

Nu­groho said thou­sands of peo­ple have been evac­u­ated by ships and that the agency’s fo­cus is on in­ten­si­fy­ing res­cue ef­forts, med­i­cal treat­ment and aid dis­tri­bu­tion as well as restor­ing in­fra­struc­ture and co­or­di­nat­ing in­ter­na­tional help.

Coun­tries in­clud­ing Sin­ga­pore, South Korea, Bri­tain, Ja­pan, In­dia and Malaysia have pledged to send 11 mil­i­tary trans­port air­craft, he said. Aus­tralia sent a planeload of sup­ply kits Thurs­day as part of its aid pack­age an­nounced ear­lier.

Palu’s dam­aged air­port was ex­pected to re-open for civil­ian traf­fic later Thurs­day, mil­i­tary of­fi­cial Lt. Col. Agus Hariyanto said.

He said 100 In­done­sian marines have landed at Palu air­port and 200 more were on their way to help in res­cue work.

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