Indonesia earthquake and tsunami: All the latest updates

The death toll in Indonesia‘s twin quake-tsunami disaster has climbed above 1,400, with time running out to rescue survivors five days after the disaster struck.

Authorities have appealed for more body bags as rescue teams find more dead bodies from the rubble to try to prevent disease outbreak.

The official death toll stands at 1,407, with thousands injured and more than 70,000 displaced from their homes, said national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. 

Food, water, fuel and medicine was still slow to reach the hardest-hit areas outside the city of Palu on Sulawesi island, and the UN has warned of “vast” unmet needs there.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by a lack of heavy machinery, severed transport links and the scale of the damage.       

Almost 200,000 people need urgent help, the UN’s humanitarian office said, among them tens of thousands of children, with an estimated 66,000 homes destroyed or damaged by the magnitude 7.5 quake and the tsunami it spawned on Friday.

A mother and her son, both injured by the earthquake and tsunami, wait to be airlifted out by a military plane at Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu [Athit Perawongmetha]

Follow live updates:

Aid is slowly trickling to Indonesia disaster-hit areas

Residents in one Palu neighbourhood devastated by the twin quake-tsunami disaster clapped, cheered and high-fived in excitement on Wednesday when a truck laden with supplies came in to their area. 

“I’m so happy,” said 63-year-old Heruwanto, while clutching a box of instant noodles.

“I really haven’t eaten for three days,” he told The Associated Press news agency.

More than 25 countries have offered assistance after Indonesian President Joko Widodo appealed for international help. Little of that, however, has reached the disaster zone.

Al Jazeera’s Wayne Haye, reporting from the airport at Palu, the largest city heavily damaged by Friday’s disaster, said “there was no shortage of aid coming in”.   

“We are seeing medical supplies, food, water and body bags come in. But much of the aid does seem to be sitting at the airport and not getting out fast enough to the areas that need it most,” he said.

An aircraft carrying 12,000 liters of fuel had arrived, and trucks with food were on the way with police escorts to guard against looters.

Many gas stations were inoperable either because of quake damage or from people stealing fuel, national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in Jakarta.

Soldiers unload relief supplies from a military aircraft for earthquake and tsunami victims at Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu, central Sulawesi, Indonesia [Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]

Indonesian military chief Hadi Tjahyanto said one armed soldier and one armed police officer would be placed on every aid truck and soldiers would be sent to secure markets, the airport and fuel depots to maintain order.

He added that a Singaporean military transport plane will help evacuate victims from the airport in Palu.

Australia announced it will send 50 medical professionals as part of a $3.6m aid package. The United States and China are among other countries that have offered assistance.

At the quake zone, water is the main issue because most of the supply infrastructure has been damaged, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters at UN headquarters in New York.

Haq said the Indonesian Ministry of Social Affairs has asked the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, to send social workers to the affected area to support children who are alone or became separated from their families.

And he said the World Health Organization is warning that a lack of shelter and damaged water sanitation facilities could lead to outbreaks of communicable diseases.

The Indonesia-based ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance said that more body bags were “urgently” needed as fears grow that decomposing corpses could provide a breeding ground for deadly diseases.

Quake, tsunami toll raised to 1,407

The death toll has increased to 1,407, according to Indonesia’s disaster agency.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesperson for the national disaster agency, said on Wednesday 519 bodies have been buried as rescue workers scrambled to locate survivors around the ravaged city of Palu.

Underlining the growing sense of urgency, Indonesian President Joko Widodo made his second visit to the disaster zone on Wednesday, putting on an orange hard hat to talk to rescue workers at a collapsed Palu hotel.

“What I’ve observed after returning now is heavy equipment has arrived, logistics have started to arrive although it’s not at maximum yet, fuel has partly arrived,” Widodo told reporters.

The president called for reinforcements in the search for victims, after inspecting what he called an “evacuation” effort at the Hotel Roa Roa, where he said some 30 people lay buried in the ruins.

Joko Widodo made his second visit to the disaster zone on Wednesday [Tatan Syuflana/AP]

“We’ll continue this process so all the victims can be retrieved,” he said.

Rescue workers were scrambling on Wednesday to locate survivors around the ravaged seaside city of Palu, with officials saying they are “racing against time” to find anyone alive. 

They are focusing on half a dozen key sites around Palu – the Hotel Roa-Roa where up to 60 people are still believed buried, a shopping mall, a restaurant and the Balaroa area where the sheer force of the quake turned the earth temporarily to mush.

Authorities set a tentative deadline of Friday to find anyone still trapped under the rubble, at which point, the chances of finding survivors will dwindle to almost zero. 

At Palu’s stricken airport, about 300 victims attempted to board Indonesian military transport planes to be evacuated to Makassar, capital of South Sulawesi province. The injured and those with children received priority seating on the Hercules C-130 aircraft.

“The evacuation was orderly and there was no panic. But they obviously looked tired and stressed out,” Al Jazeera’s Ted Regencia reported from the scene.

Outside Palu’s Mutiara Al Jufri Airport, hundreds of others were camped out, some receiving medical treatment, others awaiting a chance to escape.

There was mounting concern over Donggala, a region of 300,000 people north of Palu and closer to the epicentre, and two other districts – with a combined population of about 1.4 million.

Initial reports from Red Cross rescuers who reached the outskirts of Donggala district were chilling.

“The situation in the affected areas is nightmarish,” Jan Gelfand, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) office in Jakarta, said in a statement.

“The city of Palu has been devastated and first reports out of Donggala indicate that it has also been hit extremely hard by the double disaster.”

A ship is seen stranded on the shore after an earthquake and tsunami hit the area in Wani, Donggala, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia [Muhammad Adimaja/ Antara Foto/Reuters]

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *