January 15, 2021

Time is running out for those trapped under mud after earthquake in Indonesia

Time is running out for those trapped under mud after earthquake in Indonesia



Time is running out for hundreds of victims of the earthquake and tsunami that hit the Indonesian island of Celebes on Friday, the deadline given by the authorities to find people under the rubble and mud alive.

In the neighborhood of Balaroa in Palu, one of the urban areas most affected by the disaster that has caused the death of at least 1,424 people and more than 2,500 seriously injured, the desolation is total among the houses that are stacked on top of each other forming a mass of mud, sheet and cement.

A woman arrives at the place still with visible wounds by the earthquake and when entering the zone of the devastation she begins to cry and to implore to God, while three of the mosques of the district can be seen totally destroyed.

More than a thousand residents, half of the population of Balaroa, were buried, according to estimates of the NGO Aksi Cepat Tanggap (ACT), dedicated to disaster response, and other organizations in the field.

"There are houses on top of each other and bodies in the background," Ali Akbar, one of ACT's members in Palu, the provincial capital in the north of the island, told Efe.

From the first hour of the morning, a few relatives, neighbors, soldiers and volunteers search among the destruction in this neighborhood that was also burned by a fire that started after the earthquake.

The desperation transcends in the conversation between two volunteers in which one of them reproaches the other for the slowness when it comes to removing the rubble.

Akbar says that they have little heavy machinery and that the operators of the few cranes on the ground are afraid of damaging the bodies that give off a penetrating odor.

"If in 2 or 3 days the government does not intervene it will be more difficult to recover (the bodies) and the same will be no other than to turn it into a mass grave," says the activist.

The spokesman of the agency of management of disasters, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, warned on Wednesday to the local media that Friday concludes the period in which they hope to find people buried alive.

At the moment, the official number of disappeared amounts to 113 people, but rescue teams in the field say that the number can exceed 1,000.

Amidst the desolation caused by the loss of human life, the Government and the NGOs are trying to keep a minimum of assistance for the more than 70,000 displaced people, especially in the areas that have remained incommunicado for longer, such as Donggala, where they still need food, food and gasoline. .

The spokesman of the National Police, Dedi Prasetyo, announced at a press conference in Palu that 92 people have been arrested, 42 of them today, since the disaster occurred, while the army watches shops, ATMs, gas stations and the airport.

In some districts of the Palu, where more than 350,000 people live, began to reestablish the electricity supply and tanker trucks with gasoline and drinking water arrive daily to the city, where more and more shops are opening.

In Petobo, a rural village some seven kilometers southeast of Palu, dozens of houses have been buried under mud after one of the avalanches that followed the earthquake.

The spokeswoman for the International Federation of the Red Cross in Palu, Iris Van Deinse, told Efe today that between 500 and 700 people lived in the town that has practically disappeared.

Further south, in the district of Sigi Biromaru, Indonesian and NGO rescue teams are trying to recover the bodies of dozens of children who were trapped under another avalanche while participating in a Bible study camp.

On Tuesday, the Red Cross confirmed the death of 34 children, between 13 and 15 years old, in the camp, of which 86 young people are still missing.

By Ricardo Pérez Solero

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