After Indonesia quake, empowering coastal communities will save lives

Indonesia Aid

Indonesia Aid

Almost a week after an natural disaster struck Sulawesi, spawning a massive tsunami that overwhelmed the Indonesian island's central coast, aid groups are finally getting a foothold in the badly battered region - though challenges remain enormous for relief and recovery efforts.

Palu city on Sulawesi island has been left in ruins after it was hit by a powerful quake and a wall of water which razed whole neighbourhoods to the ground, with the official death toll now 1,571.

"We estimate there were over one thousand houses buried, so maybe more than 1,000 people are still missing", Yusuf Latif, a spokesman for Indonesia's search and rescue agency, told AFP. The government has said hundreds of people were severely injured in Friday's disasters.

The improvements are helping with the aid effort.

Indonesia has been hit by a number of earthquakes in recent months, with the events that struck the island of Lombok and surrounding area in July and August now thought to have cost nearly $800 million.

"We have to distribute supplies as quickly as possible, especially to remote areas". "But not yet to the most inaccessible places", Sinta said.

Aid organisations are urgently working with the government to identify and reunite them with their relatives, the group said.

The disaster reduced buildings in the seaside city of Palu to rubble but, with transport links badly affected, aid has been slow to arrive and looting has broken out.

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Rescue workers are pushing into outlying districts, where residents say they have been scavenging for coconuts, bananas and cassava.

Last August, an quake shook the island of Lombok, killing more than 500 people, injuring 2,000 and damaging more than 20,000. "So, we do it along the road at night", said 50-year-old Armawati Yarmin.

"I have ordered the police chief and military commander to deploy more personnel in guarding gas stations and business centres so as to make stores reopened, recover the economy in Palu", he said on Tuesday.

It should be mandatory for all infrastructure projects to be screened to ensure they are equipped to handle disasters and are then maintained, said Arghya Sinha Roy, a disaster risk specialist at the Asian Development Bank in Manila. "I really haven't eaten for three days".

The United Nations announced an allocation of $15 million on Wednesday while the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it was appealing for 22 million Swiss francs ($22 million).

A report from Reuters cites a minister who leads the fiscal policy unit of the financial ministry of the Indonesian government stating that the country wants to be better prepared and make use of the available financial tools to help mitigate the costs of disaster and aid with recovery.

In 2004, an quake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

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