Tens of thousands of children are in an “extremely precarious” condition in the wake of last Friday’s earthquake on Sulawesi island, eastern Indonesia, even as survivors grow desperate for aid and fears mount that the death toll could rise further.
Four days after the 7.4-magnitude earthquake, followed by a 2-3 metre high tsunami, wreaked havoc on Central Sulawesi, it is proving difficult to reach the more than 61,000 people displaced across the disaster-hit areas.
At least 1,234 people are already known to have died in the provincial capital of Palu and neighbouring regencies of Donggala, Sigi and Parigi Moutong, while 152 remain trapped under buildings and 99 are still missing. These are official figures from the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB).
The toll is likely to rise into the thousands as rescuers reach more areas, and as the telecommunication network and utilities are restored, Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, BNPB’s spokesman, told journalists in a press briefing.
Amid shortages of food, drinking water and medical supplies, reports have surfaced of looting and thefts from abandoned shops and warehouses.
Sounding a warning, the UN’s children agency UNICEF says more than 1,000 schools have been damaged, affecting nearly one in five students in the province.
UNICEF is appealing for US$5 million to provide health and educational services and has highlighted the dire need for ready-to-eat meals, water and sanitation materials, basic healthcare items, medicines and female hygiene kits.
Efforts also need to be stepped up to identify children separated from their families and give psycho-social support and educational services, it said. Although the central government has dispatched disaster relief aid, it has not been possible to reach all the survivors of the disaster, according to The Jakarta Post.
Survivors are also stepping forward on their own to retrieve bodies trapped under soil.
on Sunday night gave a nod for foreign assistance to be accepted to facilitate urgent disaster response and relief, tasking a team led by the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs to handle all matters pertaining to the aid.
Yesterday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo instructed Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto, to identify Indonesia’s needs and later, convey them to countries willing to help.
In response to mounting demand for evacuation from local residents, Mr Joko advised that they remain calm as the government is trying to restore economic activities there.
“Last night I already ordered National Police Chief and Indonesian Military Commander to guard fuel stations and economic centres so that shops can re-open and the economy is back to normal again, allowing the rehabilitation and reconstruction start,” he told reporters.
Since last Friday’s earthquake, as many as 254 aftershocks have been recorded as of Monday. On Tuesday morning, two quakes – of 5.9 and 6.0 magnitude – were recorded in quick succession off the southern coast of Indonesia’s Sumba island.
SOURCE: THE JAKARTA POST