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
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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.


US women detained for speaking Spanish sue border agency

In this Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, photo provided by the ACLU of Montana, Martha Hernandez, left, and Ana Suda pose in front of a convenience store in Havre, Mont., where they say they were detained by a U.S Border Patrol agent for speaking Spanish last year. (AP)
Updated 9 min 11 sec ago
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US women detained for speaking Spanish sue border agency

  • The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed suit against US Customs and Border Protection on behalf of the women, who live in Havre

LOS ANGELES: Two US women detained by a border patrol agent in the state of Montana after he heard them speaking Spanish in a grocery store have sued the country’s border protection agency.
Video of the incident — which took place last May in the small town of Havre — showed Agent Paul O’Neal tell Ana Suda and Martha Hernandez that he had asked to see their identification as it was unusual to hear Spanish speakers in the state, which borders Canada.
“It has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store in a state where it’s predominately English speaking,” he said.
“It’s not illegal, it’s just very unheard of up here,” he told the women.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed suit against US Customs and Border Protection on behalf of the women, who live in Havre.
Suda and Hernandez say in the lawsuit that O’Neal detained them for 40 minutes.
California native Hernandez and Suda, who was born in Texas, said they were standing in line to buy milk and eggs when the agent — who was standing behind them — commented on Hernandez’s accent, and asked the women where they were born.
“I asked, ‘Are you serious’?” Suda said, according to the lawsuit. “Agent O’Neal responded that he was ‘dead serious’.”
The two women say they were then asked to show identification and questioned outside the store, before eventually being released.
“The incident itself is part of a broader pattern that we’ve seen of abusive tactics by border patrol which has gotten worse since the Trump administration, which has left border patrol officers feeling emboldened to take actions like this,” Cody Wofsy, an attorney with the ACLU, told AFP.
“This has been devastating for (Suda and Hernandez),” he added.
“Havre is a small town, they felt ostracized and humiliated and made to feel unwelcome in their own town and in their own country.”
He noted the United States has no official language, with Spanish by far the most common language spoken after English.
A Customs and Border Protection spokesman declined to comment on the case.
“As a matter of policy, US Customs and Border Protection does not comment on pending litigation,” he told AFP in a statement. “However, lack of comment should not be construed as agreement or stipulation with any of the allegations.”