JAKARTA: Foreign aid began pouring in on Friday to areas devastated by the 7.4 magnitude earthquake and the tsunami a week earlier in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province on the island of Sulawesi.
Indonesian officials have said that among the items they need most to distribute humanitarian aid to Palu — the provincial capital — and surrounding districts, is an aircraft that can land at Mutiara Sis Al Jufri airport where only 2,000 meters of runway remain intact.
Other items that Indonesia needs are water and sanitation, tents, power generators, field hospital and medical assistance.
The spokesman for the disaster mitigation agency said in a press conference that at least 10 Hercules aircraft from Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, India and New Zealand had taken part in deploying aid to Palu.
“There will be 12 planes from the US, Malaysia, China, South Korea, Japan and Thailand arriving soon,” Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said, adding that all foreign aid is arriving first in Balikpapan, the main city in East Kalimantan province across the Makassar Strait, before they are distributed to the disaster areas.
The Embassy of Japan said in a statement on Friday that a C-130 Hercules and 51 personnel of Japan’s disaster relief unit had arrived in Balikpapan and planned to begin air transport from Balikpapan to Palu on Saturday.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has donated relief goods such as 500 tents, generators, water purifiers and flocculants with a total value of 3 billion Indonesian rupiah, which have arrived in Balikpapan and will be distributed in the affected areas immediately.
Rescuers have managed to pull out bodies and survivors from the eight-story Roa Roa Hotel in Palu, which had a high occupancy rate at the time of the quake.
Nugroho said on Thursday that rescuers had managed to extract eight bodies from the ruins of the hotel, including a South Korean who had been participating in a paragliding competition. The competition had completed by the time the quake struck at 6.02 p.m. local time and it was held as part of the Pesona Palu Nomoni Festival to celebrate Palu’s 40th anniversary.
Wahyu Yudha, head of FASI (Federasi Aero Sport Indonesia), confirmed the paraglider’s death in a statement and said that the body of Dong Jin Lee, who was based in Bali, was found under the hotel’s rubble at 2.45 p.m. on Thursday and had been identified by his family. Another paraglider from East Java and a member of the Indonesian Air Force, Fahmi Ruddo, was also found dead in the debris.
Tagor Siagian, spokesman for the Indonesia Paragliding & Hanggliding Association (FASI), said that there were 32 paragliders, including those from Palu who participated in the competition, but most of those who were not from Palu were able to leave the city a day after the quake.
“There were seven paragliders who had been staying at the Roa-Roa Hotel. Four of them had been found dead earlier on Monday and Tuesday,” Siagian told Arab News.
The confirmed death toll has soared to 1,571 with 1,352 from Palu and the rest from the neighboring districts of Parigi Moutong, Donggala, Pasangkayu and Sigi.
“Rescuers will continue to look for more bodies and survivors seven days since the earthquake and tsunami hit, with the possibility to extending it to another week,” Nugroho said.
At least 1,510 bodies have been buried, while the number of those badly injured is now 2,549, while 70,821 people have been displaced.
With the possibility of casualties continuing to rise, Nugroho said that those who couldn’t be found by the end of the emergency phase would be classified as missing instead of confirmed dead.
It is very likely the number of people missing could reach thousands from the current 113, given the scale of devastation caused by the second quake - triggered calamity that hit Palu — soil liquefaction, or when the soil becomes saturated and loses its density.
As many as 66,238 houses are damaged, with 1,700 houses in Balaroa residential complex badly damaged by the liquefaction that followed the quake. In Petobo, an entire village of 744 houses collapsed and was swallowed by the liquefying soil.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where active volcanoes are concentrated and tectonic plates meet and subduct, making it a disaster-prone area with frequent earthquakes. There are 127 active volcanoes that dot the Indonesian archipelago.
“So far, there have been 437 aftershocks, with decreasing intensity since the 7.4 magnitude quake. It will continue to happen as the faults are finding a balance,” Nugroho said.