Time running out for survivors as Indonesia toll nears 1,400
WANI, Indonesia – Agence France-Presse
Authorities set a tentative deadline of Oct. 5 to find anyone still trapped under rubble, at which point -- a week after this devastating double disaster -- the chances of finding survivors will dwindle to almost zero.
Government rescue workers are focusing on half a dozen key sites around the ravaged seaside city of Palu -- the Hotel Roa-Roa where up to 60 people are still believed buried, a shopping mall, a restaurant and the Balaroa area where the sheer force of the quake turned the earth temporarily to mush.
Almost 200,000 people need urgent help, the U.N.’s humanitarian office said, among them tens of thousands of children, with an estimated 66,000 homes destroyed or damaged by the 7.5-magnitude quake and the tsunami it spawned.
Despite the Indonesian government urging foreign rescue teams to “stand down” because the crisis was in hand, residents in hard-hit, remote villages like Wani in Donggala province say little help has arrived and hope is fading.
“Twelve people in this area haven’t yet been found,” Mohammad Thahir Talib told AFP.
“In the area to the south, because there hasn’t been an evacuation we don’t know if there are bodies. It’s possible there are more,” the 39-year-old said.
In Geneva, the United Nations expressed frustration at the slow pace of the response.
“There are still large areas of what might be the worst-affected areas that haven’t been properly reached, but the teams are pushing, they are doing what they can,” Jens Laerke, from the UN’s humanitarian office, told reporters late Oct. 2.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that across Donggala, some 310,000 people have been affected by the disaster.
Survivors are battling thirst and hunger, with food and clean water in short supply, and local hospitals are overwhelmed by the number of injured.
Officials on the ground said that while the government was now inviting offers of help, there is still no “mechanism for this to be implemented,” as the death toll continues to rise.
“The death toll is now 1,374, 113 missing,” Willem Rampangilei, head of Indonesia’s national disaster agency, told reporters in Palu on Oct. 2.
“And there are still a few bodies trapped under the rubble. We don’t know how many. Our priority is still to find and save people,” he added.