Indonesia tells independent foreign aid workers to leave quake zone

Indonesia tells independent foreign aid workers to leave quake zone
Soldiers unload food aid from a Singapore Armed Forces supply plane at Mutiara Sis Al-Jufri Airport in Palu, Indonesia.
PHOTO: Reuters

PALU, Indonesia - Indonesia on Tuesday ordered independent foreign aid workers to leave the quake zone and said foreign groups with staff in the disaster area on Sulawesi island should pull them out.

Indonesia has traditionally been reluctant to be seen as relying on outside help to cope with disasters, and the government shunned foreign aid this year when earthquakes struck the island of Lombok.

But it has accepted help from abroad to cope with the aftermath of a 7.5 quake and tsunami that hit the west coast of Sulawesi on Sept. 28, killing at least 1,948 people.

Despite that, some foreign groups say they have faced difficulties getting entry permits to bring in staff and equipment, and there has been confusion about the rules.

Scores killed in Indonesia quake, tsunami

  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery

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

  • Open gallery

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

  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery

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

  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery

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

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery

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

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

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

  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery

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

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

    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.

  • Open gallery
  • Open gallery

There have long been restrictions on the activity of foreign aid workers, and the national disaster agency, in a notice posted on Twitter, set the rules out for foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Foreign groups are not allowed to "go directly to the field" but must conduct all activities "in partnership with local partners", it said.

"Foreign citizens who are working with foreign NGOs are not allowed to conduct any activity on the sites affected," it said.

"Foreign NGOs who have deployed its foreign personnel are advised to retrieve their personnel immediately," the agency said in its English-language notice.

The official death toll in Sulawesi stood at 1,948 on Tuesday, with most of the fatalities in Palu, a small city that bore the brunt of the disaster.

No one knows how many people are missing, especially in areas of southern Palu devastated by soil liquefaction, but it could be as high as 5,000, the national disaster agency said.

About 70,000 people have been displaced.

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.