Indonesian rescuers struggle to reach cut-off villages after deadly quake

Indonesian people carry an injured woman in Pemenang, North Lombok on August 6, 2018, the day after a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck the area. (AFP)
Updated 07 August 2018
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Indonesian rescuers struggle to reach cut-off villages after deadly quake

  • Quakes continue to rattle the island, including a 5.5 magnitude tremor at around 2 a.m. (1800 GMT Monday), Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency said (BMKG)
  • Tourists were still leaving Lombok on Tuesday, some seen riding in military buses while others took ferries to Bali to the west of Lombok

PEMENANG, Indonesia: Indonesian rescue workers and military personnel resumed their search for survivors and evacuated more victims on the tourist island of Lombok on Tuesday, two days after a major earthquake killed dozens, destroyed villages and stranded thousands.
The death toll since the 6.9 magnitude quake on Sunday has reached 98, including two on the neighboring island of Bali, and officials expect it to rise.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency (BNPB), said on Twitter rescuers were combing through rubble in their search for survivors.
In a separate statement, BNPB said rescue efforts faced difficulties in the worst-hit area of northern Lombok but provided few details. Nugroho told a news briefing on Monday some areas there were cut off after bridges collapsed.
Riduan, a 45-year old man whose house in Karangkauhan on Lombok was partially destroyed, said he had received no aid so far and had to buy food on his own.
“We don’t get anything,” he said while trying to rescue documents from his house.
Quakes continue to rattle the island, including a 5.5 magnitude tremor at around 2 a.m. (1800 GMT Monday), Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency said (BMKG).
A total of 230 aftershocks were recorded by Tuesday morning, BMKG data showed.
Lombok had already been hit by a 6.4 quake on July 29 that killed 17 people and briefly stranded several hundred trekkers on the slopes of a volcano.
Tourists were still leaving Lombok on Tuesday, some seen riding in military buses while others took ferries to Bali to the west of Lombok.
Officials said more than 2,000 people had been evacuated from the three Gili islands off the northwest coast of Lombok, where fears of a tsunami had spread soon after the quake.
Tourists and Gili residents alike were seeking to leave the islands, according to Indonesia’s search and rescue agency.
There was no official figure for how many tourists were on the islands, with numbers jumping from an original estimate of about 1,000.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly hit by earthquakes. In 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.


New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

Updated 26 min 37 sec ago
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New Chicago mayor gives Arabs hope

  • The election of Lori Lightfoot as mayor gives Chicago’s Arabs an opportunity to reverse the damage that Rahm Emanuel has caused
  • Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained against

Plagued by ongoing controversies and criticism that he tried to hide a video of Chicago police killing a black teenager in October 2014, Rahm Emanuel decided he had had enough as the city’s mayor and decided to retire.

Elected in 2011 with a big boost from his former boss, US President Barack Obama — also a Chicago native — Emanuel served two full terms.

But his hopes of reversing the city’s tumbling finances, improving its poorly performing schools, and reversing record gun-related violence and killings, all failed.

However, Emanuel did have one success. He managed to gut the involvement of Chicago’s Arab-American minority in city-sponsored events, responding favorably to its influential Jewish-American community leadership, which complained about Palestinian activists who advocated for statehood and challenged Israeli oppression.

Emanuel’s first acts as mayor included blocking the annual Arabesque Festival, which Jewish groups complained included photographs of Palestinians protesting against Israel. The festival had only been launched four years earlier by his predecessor in 2007.

Emanuel also disbanded the Advisory Commission on Arab Affairs, and ended Arab American Heritage Month, which had been held every November since it was recognized by Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor.

Emanuel refused to discuss his reasons for these decisions with leaders of Chicago’s Arab community.

He declined repeated requests by me to interview him, despite my having interviewed seven Chicago mayors. He declined similar requests from other Arab journalists.

While he hosted iftars for Muslims, he never hosted an Arab heritage celebration during his eight years in office.

His father was a leader of the Irgun, which was denounced as a terrorist organization in the 1940s by the British military.

The Irgun murdered British soldiers and thousands of Palestinian civilians, and orchestrated the bloody Deir Yassin massacre on April 9, 1948.

Before becoming mayor, Emanuel volunteered at an Israeli military base repairing damaged vehicles. His pro-Israel stance was never challenged by the mainstream US news media.

But with the election in February of Lori Lightfoot as mayor, Chicago’s Arabs have an opportunity to reverse the damage that Emanuel caused.

Lightfoot was sworn into office on Monday and serves for four years. She has already reached out to Arabs, appointing at least two Palestinians to her 400-person transition team, whose members often remain and assume government positions with new administrations.

The two Palestinians in her transition team are Rush Darwish and Rami Nashashibi. Darwish has organized several successful marathons in Chicago and Bethlehem to raise funds for the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. Nashashibi is involved with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN).

As an African American, Lightfoot knows what it is like to be the victim of racism, stereotypes and discrimination. That makes her more sensitive to the concerns of Chicago’s Arabs.