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Indonesia tsunami: Crisis worsens as aid struggles to reach island

The Guardian - October 4, 2018

Hannah Ellis-Petersen and agencies The humanitarian crisis in Sulawesi has continued to worsen as organisations struggle to bring the millions of dollars in international aid that has been pledged to the island devastated by last week's earthquake.

At least 1,424 people are so far reported to have died from the 7.5 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the Indonesian island on Friday. At least a further 2,500 have been injured and more than 100 are still missing.

More than 70,000 houses are damaged, leaving tens of thousands homeless and resorting to living in tents and shelters, with no clear idea when they will be able to begin rebuilding their homes. Makeshift shelters built from earthquake debris have sprung up across the island, while clean drinking water and food supplies remain scarce and people have been forced to queue for fuel for over 12 hours in some cases.

As the situation worsens by the day, survivors expressed hope that more government and international aid would be able to reach the area imminently.

However, despite millions of dollars in aid pledged by the UN and countries such as the US, China, Australia, UK and New Zealand, there have been delays in aid reaching the affected areas, due to difficulties transporting it into the area. Most roads were destroyed and the tiny airport in Palu was pushed to maximum capacity after being damaged in the quake.

As UK charities prepared to launch a campaign for help on Thursday, Ida Dewa Agung Hadisaputra, a senior military official overseeing logistics in the area, insisted some more help was arriving.

"Aid is coming in from different sources, such as local governments from across Sulawesi as well as state-owned enterprises," he said. The Red Cross said that it was sending three ships loaded with supplies, including field kitchens, tents, body bags and mosquito nets.

One Palu resident Andi Rusding, huddled with numerous family members under a tarpaulin, said they had received some aid but its distribution was uneven and they 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 sometimes [the relief goods] didn't distribute evenly."

The UN estimated that some 200,000 people need assistance, announcing a $15m allocation to bolster relief efforts.

Australia said it will send 50 medical professionals as part of a $3.9m aid package. The UK government pledged £1m ($1.3m) to support immediate relief efforts on the ground and said they were sending thousands of shelter kits, solar lanterns and water purifiers. The flight loaded with UK aid is due to leave Doncaster Sheffield airport early on Thursday morning.

Britain's Disasters Emergency Committee will launch an appeal for donations on Thursday. New Zealand has deployed military aircraft carrying emergency supplies to earthquake and tsunami-struck Indonesia as part of a $3.2m aid offer.

"The scale of the relief effort required following last week's earthquake and tsunami is becoming increasingly apparent, and there are many people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance," New Zealand foreign minister Winston Peters said on Thursday.

Ben Webster, head of emergencies at the British Red Cross said described the situation on the ground as "a gruelling, very emotional experience" for those involved in the rescue efforts.

"Each day that passes our hope of finding more people alive fades," said Webster. "I've heard stories of volunteers having to step over dead bodies to reach those in need of medical care."

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/04/indonesia-tsunami-crisis-worsens-as-aid-struggles-to-reach-island.

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