News focus – Difficult evacuation of disaster victims in Central Sulawesi By Otniel Tamindael

Jakarta, (ANTARA News) - Search and rescue efforts continue to take place in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in the Indonesian province of Central Sulawesi.

The search and rescue efforts involved teams from various agencies, including the National Search and Rescue Agency, the Police, the National Defense Forces, and the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI).

Although acknowledging that the search and evacuation of the victims of the devastating earthquake and tsunami was very difficult, the PMI mobilized its network of volunteers to support search, rescue and body retrieval efforts.

Emergency response team members (ERT) have been deployed to deliver relief assistance and undertake rapid needs assessments.

Hundreds of PMI volunteers and staff are currently on the ground with government agencies to conduct conduct search and rescue activities, provide medical support and distribute relief goods.

The most urgent needs will be medical care for survivors and provision of food, shelter, blankets and clean water, and also communication tools to help account for their loved ones.

PMI has sent additional logistics assistance to help deal with the emergency response in Central Sulawesi after a 7.4-magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit several locations in the province.

Head of the PMI Headquarters Infrastructure Bureau Tia Kurniawan noted in a press release on Tuesday that the step to send additional logistics assistance was taken in accordance with Jusuf Kallas directives as the chairperson of the Indonesian Red Cross.

Kalla has instructed all levels of PMIs resources to continue supporting efforts in the handling of the affected victims and in the emergency response process.

Kurniawan noted that the PMI had sent logistical and operational vehicles, with a total of 70 tons simultaneously from four regional warehouses owned by PMI across Indonesia.

A total of 25 tons of aid were sent from the PMIs regional warehouse in Serang, Banten, that comprised priority basic needs for refugees, such as cleaning supplies, baby equipment, platoon tents, family pram tents, striated blankets, sarongs, cooking utensils, mattresses, personal protective equipment, such as masks, and medical and latex gloves.

In addition to logistical assistance, the PMI has sent several additional fleets comprising seven water tankers, ankle trucks, double trucks, and Fuso trucks in addition to other heavy equipment, such as hagglund amphibious multi-field vehicles.

"Of course, this logistical assistance is not the last, and further aid will be sent after looking at the situation and needs on the field," Kurniawan noted.

In the meantime, President Joko Widodo has outlined four priorities in handling efforts to rescue and assist victims of the magnitude-7.4 earthquake and a subsequent tsunami in the districts of Palu, Donggala, Sigi, and Parigi Moutong in Central Sulawesi Province.

The four priorities are search, rescue, and evacuation efforts; medical assistance; helping refugees in shelters and emergency tents; and infrastructure reconstruction efforts, the president noted at a limited cabinet meeting here, Tuesday.

PMI Chairman Jusuf Kalla has said earlier that the earthquake and tsunami in Palu and Donggala has hampered the distribution of logistical aid for victims.

After attending the Regional Representatives Council anniversary in Jakarta on Monday, Kalla remarked that the transportation infrastructure, including the airport and port, has been under restoration, and hopefully, it would become operational as soon as possible.

According to him, the Indonesian Red Cross has deployed helicopter service to send the humanitarian aid, as the SIS Al-Jufrie airport runway was damaged.

Kalla said PMI has delivered water, medicines, doctors, and other necessities, in addition to deploying its personnel from the regional red cross in surrounding areas in South and West Sulawesi to help the victims of earthquake and tsunami in Central Sulawesi.

The PMI has sent many personnel, five ambulances, two operational vehicles, a water tank, a Hagglund amphibious vehicle, a generator set, seven communication sets, stretchers, and tent.

It has distributed emergency logistics, including 200 blankets, 200 mats, 500 jerrycans, and 200 sarongs, from its warehouse in Makassar, South Sulawesi, and Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, and Rp100 million of emergency response fund.

According to the PMI, instant food, clean water, tents, blankets, and medicines are urgently needed at the location in addition to a field hospital, paramedics, electricity and communication line.

The Indonesian Red Cross has become the front guard in handling humanitarian problems in the country, from natural disasters to conflicts.

Social Affairs Minister Agus Gumiwang has said he appreciated all selfless PMI volunteers who have dedicated themselves to help people in need.

According to him, the Indonesian Red Cross never differentiates anyone based on their ethnicity, religion, race, and political perspective, rather PMI applies the same humanitarian principles to all.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Indonesian Red Cross officials, along with other rescue personnel, managed to find and evacuate 21 bodies from disaster-affected areas in South Palu and the West Coast of Donggala.

In a press release on Wednesday, PMI said the team had evacuated 14 bodies from the Petobo Housing in South Palu, some of which were inundated with mud.

According to information from local residents, there may still be many bodies buried in the landslides, and the evacuation team needed the help of heavy equipment such as excavators to dig mud puddles and lift the bodies of victims from there.

Source: ANTARA News

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