Muslims pray for strength in quake-hit Indonesian city

Arturo Kim
October 7, 2018

Officials unload aid for victims of natural disaster and tsunami at Pantoloan port in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, October 3, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto.

The city, 1,500km northeast of Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, has teetered close to chaos this week, without breaks of looting, but a recovery was evident as some shops and banks reopened and a major mobile phone network was back up.

But the death toll, now above 1,500 hundred is still expected to climb.

Indonesia was initially reluctant to accept outside help, insisting its own military could handle the response, but as the scale of the devastation became clear President Joko Widodo agreed to allow in foreign aid.

Members of the Muslim Cyber Army (MCA) - a cluster of loosely connected groups accused of using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to attack the government and stoke religious extremism - have been rounded up.

"There are people camping all over the place, there are people camping at the airport, there are people camping in the streets, and the airport itself is really badly damaged", he said.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency estimated a series of earlier quakes that hit the resort island of Lombok in July and August had caused damages worth 12 trillion rupiah ($790 million) and killed almost 500 people.

They are hoping more aid will arrive in the shattered city of Palu and the surrounding Donggala district on the island of Sulawesi.

Structures have been totally wiped out after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit Palu Central Sulawesi Indonesia
Structures have been totally wiped out after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit Palu Central Sulawesi Indonesia

Rescuers were digging through several feet of mud looking for survivors in the Palu area on Friday, one week after a 7.5-magnitude quake and tsunami hit the region. "So, we do it along the road at night", said 50-year-old Armawati Yarmin.

"We've mark the possible bodies with sticks". Aid have yet to reach the hardest-hit areas around Palu, the largest city heavily damaged in the quake and tsunami that hit on Friday, Sept. 28.

"My immediate family is safe, thank God, but my cousin was killed", he told Reuters, adding that his family had got food and water in the past few days.

"I'm still confused", he said, when asked where he will pray now.

Worldwide aid is beginning to arrive, including supplies from Britain and Australia, after the government overcame a traditional reluctance to accept help from overseas.

Worldwide aid offers have picked up since Jakarta's belated request for help, with the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund announcing late on Tuesday that it was releasing US$15 million (RM62.11 million) in aid.

Indonesia sits along the Pacific "Ring of Fire", the world's most tectonically active region, and its 260 million people remain hugely vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

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