Indonesia quake toll jumps as survivors grow desperate
Palu, Indonesia – Trucks carrying food for desperate survivors of the earthquake on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island rolled in with a police escort Tuesday to guard against looters, while the death toll from the disaster soared past 1,200.
Four days after the magnitude 7.5 earthquake and tsunami struck, supplies of food, water, fuel and medicine had yet to reach the hardest-hit areas outside Palu, the largest city that was heavily damaged. Many roads in the earthquake zone are blocked and communications lines are down.
“We feel like we are stepchildren here because all the help is going to Palu,” said Mohamad Taufik, 38, from the town of Donggala, where five of his relatives are still missing. “There are many young children here who are hungry and sick, but there is no milk or medicine.”
The death toll reached 1,234, national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in Jakarta, the capital. Hundreds of other people were injured, and scores of uncounted bodies could still be buried in collapsed buildings in Sigi and Balaroa under quicksand-like mud caused by Friday’s quake.
The U.N. humanitarian office reported that “needs are vast,” with people urgently requiring shelter, clean water, food, fuel and emergency medical care.
Water is the main issue because most of the supply infrastructure has been damaged, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York.
More than 25 countries offered assistance after Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo appealed for international help. Little of that, however, has reached the disaster zone, and increasingly desperate residents grabbed food and fuel from damaged stores and begged for help.
Haq said the government is coordinating emergency efforts, and U.N. and relief agencies are on the ground or enroute. He said the agencies are working closely with the government to provide technical support.
An aircraft carrying 3,170 gallons of fuel had arrived. and trucks with food were on the way with police escorts to guard against looters. Many gas stations were inoperable either because of quake damage or from people stealing fuel, Nugroho said.
The frustration of waiting for days without help has angered some survivors.
“Pay attention to Donggala, Mr. Jokowi. Pay attention to Donggala,” yelled one resident in a video broadcast on local TV, referring to the president. “There are still a lot of unattended villages here.”
The town’s administrative head, Kasman Lassa, all but gave residents permission to take food – but nothing else – from stores.
“Everyone is hungry and they want to eat after several days of not eating,” Lassa said on local TV.
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