Chaos in Palu after quake as survivors deal with hunger, thirst

Chaos in Palu after quake as survivors deal with hunger, thirst
Survivors of an earthquake in Palu wait in line for fuel at a Pertamina gas station in the city on Oct. 1, 2018.
PHOTO: The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

In the wake of mass destruction caused by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake and the subsequent tsunami, survivors in Palu and Donggala in Central Sulawesi have been scrambling to salvage food supplies and other items, as aid from the central government began to trickle into the region.

On Monday, many survivors blocked trucks carrying aid to plunder the contents as many have gone hungry and thirsty for days.

A video circulating on Twitter, said to have been taken in Donggala regency, also shows people intercepting a relief aid truck.

The Jakarta Post's correspondent saw people waiting for fuel at a Pertamina gas station asking the entourage of journalists and officials from Jakarta for drinking water. "Drinking water, drinking water, please," some survivors said to passing motorists.

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"I ran into a mother and her child at the airport who asked me to share some of my water with her child," correspondent Andi Hajramurni said. "'Just a little, enough for my child" Hajramurni quoted the mother as saying to her.

A pregnant woman was also found exhausted outside the airport. She said she was upset to see aid being unloaded from the planes but none reaching the survivors waiting to leave the city at the airport.

Thousands crowded Mutiara Sis Al Jufri airport to leave the devastated city while staving off hunger and thirst under the scorching heat. The survivors have been waiting for a chance to flee the city since Saturday, camping outside on mats or cardboard. They were hoping to catch a plane to Makassar to later go to their respective hometowns.

"What is important is to get out of Palu. We have agreed to meet Papa in Makassar and then go to Jakarta," Paramita said Monday. The 29-year-old, who sustained an injury to her leg from falling concrete debris, is taking her two sisters with her.

Desperate and impatient, the survivors were occupying part of the runway.

An airport official, Syaeful, said as of Sunday night, about 5,000 people had waited for a plane at the airport. "The number keeps increasing," he said.

Earthquake survivors in Palu, Central Sulawesi, crowd Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu in a desperate attempt to leave the devastated area on Monday.

Scores killed in Indonesia quake, tsunami

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    Earthquake survivors in Palu, Central Sulawesi, crowd Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu in a desperate attempt to leave the devastated area on Monday.

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    A combination of satellite images shows Palu, Indonesia on September 22, 2018 (L) and on October 1, 2018.

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    A combination of satellite images shows Palu, Indonesia on September 22, 2018 (L) and on October 1, 2018.

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    In the wake of mass destruction caused by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake and the subsequent tsunami, survivors in Palu and Donggala in Central Sulawesi have been scrambling to salvage food supplies and other items, as aid from the central government began to trickle into the region.

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    An aerial view of an area devestated by an earthquake in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia October 1, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto.

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    Local residents affected by the earthquake and tsunami retrieve gasoline at a gas station in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia.

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    This handout from Indonesia's National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) taken on September 29, 2018 shows an aerial view of Palu, Indonesia's Central Sulawesi, after an earthquake and tsunami hit the area on September 28.

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    Scores of people were killed when a powerful quake and tsunami struck central Indonesia, an AFP photographer at the scene said on Saturday (Sept 29), as rescuers scrambled to reach the stricken region.

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    Photographs from Palu, home to around 350,000 on the coast of Sulawesi island, showed partially covered bodies on the ground near the shore, the morning after tsunami waves as high as 1.5 metres slammed into the city.

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    A satellite image shows Palu, Indonesia on October 1, 2018.

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    The tsunami was triggered by a strong quake that brought down several buildings and sent locals fleeing their homes for higher ground as a churning wall of water crashed into Palu.

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    People living hundreds of kilometres from the epicentre reported feeling the massive shake, hours after a smaller jolt killed at least one person in the same part of the South-east Asian archipelago.

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    The quake hit just off central Sulawesi at a depth of 10 kilometres just before 6pm local time, the US Geological Survey said. Such shallow quakes tend to be more destructive.

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    Search and rescue teams have been dispatched to hard-hit areas

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    A 10-storey hotel in Palu in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi collapsed following a strong earthquake in the area.

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    As shattered survivors scoured make-shift morgues for loved ones, and authorities struggled to dig out the living or assess the scale of the devastation beyond the city of Palu, grim warnings came that the eventual toll could reach thousands.

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    Rescuers on Sulawesi island raced against the clock and a lack of equipment to save those still trapped in the rubble, with up to 60 people feared to be underneath one Palu hotel alone.

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    Others have centred their search around open-air morgues, where the dead lay in the baking sun - waiting to be claimed, waiting to be named.

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    Still, as dire as the situation in Palu was, it was at least clear. In outlying areas, the fate of thousands is still unknown.

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    Desperate survivors, now facing a third straight night sleeping outdoors, turned to looting shops for basics like food, water and fuel as police looked on, unwilling or unable to intervene.

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Some businesses, such as at Masomba traditional market, have opened for businesses and some survivors have bought food supplies. "I bought some fish," the Post's correspondent Ruslan Sangadji, who is also a survivor of the quake, said Monday.

However, food and clean water are scarce and many are desperate.

In Buluri subdistrict, Ulujadi district in the western part of Palu, survivors blocked roads to intercept trucks carrying food supplies. Police officers in the area are reported to be unable to hold off the crowd.

Similarly, residents in Tawaeli district in central Palu have taken to a nearby port to intercept government aid arriving on ships. The police were also reported to be unable to ward off the desperate crowd.

A handful of residents even looted nearby convenience stores for any life-sustaining item they could find, since aid from the government had not yet arrived.

Many also attempted to siphon fuel from gas stations around the city over the weekend as none of the city's gas stations were in operation following the earthquake and tsunami that hit the city on Friday.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on Sunday asked quake survivors to be patient as they wait for aid to be distributed upon arriving in Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi.

Jokowi said it would take one week to prepare the airport so airplanes carrying the supplies could land safely.

"I'm aware there are a lot of issues that need to be resolved as soon as possible, and I hope the people will remain patient in this situation," he told the reporters on Sunday.

On Monday, Jokowi said he would send "as much food as possible" immediately.

Several people also reportedly robbed ATMs and jewelry shops. Twitter user @MpuAnon posted a video showing gold shops that looked like they had been looted.

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"Gold shops. Post-looting," the Twitter user said in the caption.

The police are reported to have ordered a shoot on sight policy against such robbers.

In an attempt to maintain and restore order in the region, the National Police and the National Military have employed personnel to guard several gas stations and convenience stores across Palu, according to the police's head of communication Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo.

Previously, Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo advised against looting - not even in the wake of a natural disaster - as the act is considered criminal.

"There's no justification whatsoever for looting. Everyone's equally affected by the disaster; their shops destroyed, shopping malls devastated," Tjahjo said during a televised interview on Sunday, as quoted by kompas.com.

Prior to Sunday's statement, news spread on social media that the government had approved of the looting at convenience stores and that the expenses would be covered by the state.

However, Tjahjo denied it, saying that what the government had approved was the transfer of aid funds to the Central Sulawesi administration, to be used for food supplies for survivors. 

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