Indonesia tsunami devastation mounts

Over 1,300 people are confirmed to have been killed by a Tsunami that struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi last Friday. The global international crisis response system is kicking into high gear right now, but relief efforts are in a race against time.

Speaking from the island’s main city Palu, a relief worker with Mercy Corps sent an message to reporters stating: “The situation in Palu remains grave. Food and water is scarce and many of the people I have spoken with haven’t eaten in days — and that is the situation in Palu, a city which is receiving support. People at the epicentre of the quake are still largely cut-off from the aid effort.”

“Critical roads remain closed, destroyed or blocked by the quake, and a lack of fuel means that even if the roads were open, we might not be able to reach those affected. In such a geographically challenging context as Indonesia, fuel is of critical importance: it powers the diggers that are needed to clear roads, the generators in hospitals and displacement camps, and the trucks that are needed to cover the hundreds of kilometers of affected area. Without fuel, there won’t be aid deliveries.”

The Tsunami was triggered by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and swept through a Palu bay, the terminus of which is the city of Palu, which has a population of 380,000.

This is a system coordinated through the United Nations, in which NGOs, governments and UN agencies take on specific tasks necessary in an emergency like this.  It already appears that the logistical challenge of importing relief items will be immense.

Aid could be delivered via a “humanitarian land bridge” from Jakarta to Sulawesi, [a spokesperson for the UN Migration Agency] said, noting that the idea had been implemented following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, from Jakarta to Aceh and from Medan to Aceh.

Delivering aid to Sulawesi through the port of Palu, continues to be a major challenge, however, the IOM spokesperson explained. “The port itself has not been damaged (but) the cranes and gantries and the equipment you would use to remove goods from vessels have been badly damaged,” he said, adding that in some case they had been “completely knocked down, and access to the port itself is very difficult.”

[UN Dispatch]

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