Indonesia ends grim search for dead in quake-tsunami

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The United Nations has sought $50.5 million for immediate relief to help the quake-tsunami victims. (AFP)
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Members of the Indonesian special operations Mobile Brigade Corps patrol the Petobo neighborhood hit by the earthquake and liquefaction in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Thursday. (Reuters )
Updated 12 October 2018

Indonesia ends grim search for dead in quake-tsunami

  • The magnitude 7.5-quake and a subsequent tsunami razed swathes of the city of Palu on Sulawesi island on September 28
  • Indonesia initially refused international help, saying the military had the situation in hand

JAKARTA: The Indonesian government has extended by two weeks the emergency phase in earthquake-stricken areas of Sulawesi island in central Indonesia. Initially due to end today it will continue until Oct. 26, the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) revealed.

The government also decided to continue search efforts into today to recover bodies of victims of the 7.4-magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami and landslides. The original plan was to end searches yesterday, worried that decomposing bodies could trigger diseases after two weeks buried under rubble.

“There were people who requested for the search and evacuation efforts to be extended for another day. But it will really have to end on Friday,” BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

He added that the joint national search and rescue team will still be looking for bodies of victims in full force throughout the day but will officially end its work by sundown.

The search efforts will be reduced to a smaller effort with Palu’s search and rescue agency handling the work in case there more bodies are retrieved.

The number of those confirmed dead in the two weeks since the Sept. 28 quake rose to 2,073. As many as 1,663 were from Palu while the rest were from neighboring districts of Donggala, Sigi, Parigi Moutong and West Sulawesi’s Pasangkayu district. All those confirmed dead have been buried, Nugroho said.

Palu, the provincial capital with a population of 367,000, was been greatly affected by the triple disaster, with 65,773 houses on its coastline swept away by the tsunami. Further inland residential areas have been reduced to rubble.

Nugroho said the number of people still unaccounted for remains in the hundreds with the official figure given as 652 in Palu out of the overall total of 680. It is estimated, however, that thousands will eventually be classified as missing.

Central Sulawesi Governor Longki Djanggola revealed that the government will turn the devastated Balaroa, Petobo and Jono Oge housing areas into open green spaces to serve as a memorial park for those killed.

As Indonesia recovered from the Palu quake, a powerful undersea quake with 6.3 magnitude shook Situbondo in East Java province at 01:57 a.m. yesterday, according to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency.

The quake killed three people, with falling debris injuring a further eight, Nugroho said.

The jolt was felt in some parts of neighboring island of Bali, where global leaders and thousands of world’s top financiers, economists, and bankers are gathered in southeast of the island for annual meetings of International Money Fund and World Bank.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad are scheduled to take some time off their schedule in Bali to visit Palu this week.

“The quakes in Situbondo and Palu are not connected to each other because the faults that triggered them are different,” Nugroho said.

The Indonesian archipelago sits along on the Pacific Ring of Fire where tectonic plates meet and subduct, meaning it is a disaster-prone area with frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Afghans brave militant threat to vote in delayed election

Updated 40 sec ago

Afghans brave militant threat to vote in delayed election

KABUL: Afghans are bracing for more deadly violence on Saturday as voting gets under way in the long-delayed legislative election that the Taliban has vowed to attack.
After shambolic preparations, polling centers opened at 7:00 am (0230 GMT) across war-torn Afghanistan, but threats of militant attacks and expectations for industrial-scale fraud are likely to deter many voters.
People queueing outside a polling center in Kabul complained the process was taking too long, apparently due to hiccups with biometric voter verification devices that are being used in the election for the first time.
“I came here early to finish and go home quickly, but we have been waiting for an hour and they have not started yet,” Mustafa, 42, told AFP.
“The queue is getting longer. They have to register our votes quickly — we are afraid a bomber or a blast may hit us.”
Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s equivalent of prime minister, also waited for more than half an hour at a polling center in the Afghan capital as election workers searched for his name on a voter registration list, a live broadcast on Tolo News showed.
Almost nine million people have registered to vote in the parliamentary election, which is more than three years late and only the third since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
In the days leading up to the poll, the Taliban issued several statements urging candidates to withdraw and voters to boycott what the group calls a “malicious American conspiracy.”
The killing of a powerful police chief in a highly secure compound in the southern province of Kandahar on Thursday has eroded confidence in the ability of security forces to protect voting locations.
Voting in Kandahar has been delayed by a week following the attack that killed three people, including General Abdul Raziq.
Despite the risks, President Ashraf Ghani urged “every Aghan, young and old, women and men” to exercise their right to vote, after casting his ballot in Kabul.
Dozens of men and women clutching their identification documents were seen lining up outside voting centers in the Afghan capital, as a heavy security presence blocked many streets.
A woman dressed in a burqa exiting a polling center in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif told AFP she had been worried about “security incidents,” but decided to vote anyway.
“We have to defy the violence,” Hafiza, 57, said. “In previous years we were not happy with the elections, our votes were sold out.”
The Independent Election Commission (IEC), which has been skewered over the chaotic lead-up to the ballot, on Friday urged Afghans to “vote only once” and called on others not to interfere in the process.
“They should observe impartiality in the election so that we have a transparent, impartial and fair election in Afghanistan,” IEC chief Abdul Badi Sayyad told reporters.
Preparations for the vote have been marred by a wave of poll-related violence that has left hundreds dead or wounded.
At least 10 candidates out of more than 2,500 contesting the lower-house election have been killed so far.
The most recent victim was Abdul Jabar Qahraman, who was killed Wednesday by a bomb placed under his sofa in the southern province of Helmand.
Most of the candidates are political novices and include doctors, mullahs and journalists. Those with the deepest pockets are expected to win.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, which has spearheaded international efforts to keep Afghan organizers on track, on Friday called on voters to “exercise their constitutional right to vote.”
The poll is seen as a crucial test for next year’s presidential election and an important milestone ahead of a UN meeting in Geneva in November where Afghanistan is under pressure to show progress on “democratic processes.”
But there are concerns the results could be thrown into turmoil if the biometric verification devices are broken, lost or destroyed.
Votes cast without the controversial machines will not be counted, the IEC has said.