Thousands die in Indonesian earthquake

Rescuers work to recover earthquake victims in West Palu, Sulawesi. (Flickr)

By Anandita Mehta
Staff Writer

A 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Sept. 28, generating a massive tsunami in its wake, according to Al Jazeera. The death toll from the combined disasters reached 1,571 as of Oct. 5.

The nation initially planned to use only its own military resources to respond to the disasters, but Indonesian President Joko Widodo agreed to accept foreign aid after viewing the extent of the damage, according to Al Jazeera. The United Nations has requested $50.5 million in aid for immediate relief as the full extent of the disaster becomes apparent.

One-thousand of the earthquake’s victims may be buried in mud, as the tsunami and earthquake have made the ground extremely wet, according to Al Jazeera.

The country’s economy is also suffering. The Indonesian currency, the rupiah, weakened this week to less than 15,000 rupiah per dollar for the first time in 20 years, Bloomberg reported.

While the port of Palu did reopen, rescuers are still struggling to deliver aid and supplies to the island of Sulawesi because of damaged roads and airstrips, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Widodo visited Palu for the second time on Wednesday, Oct. 3 and laid out steps for its recovery. Although power was restored there on Oct. 4, around 370, 000 people have been misplaced. Widodo is prioritizing evacuation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of the area, according to Al Jazeera.

The rescue efforts lack organization, according to Al Jazeera. Most citizens do not have water, rescue efforts have been impeded by a shortage of proper heavy equipment and rescuers cannot adequately sift through the debris by hand.

Rescuers are almost certain that they will find no survivors in the neighborhood of Petobo, a city that Iris van Deinze, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of Red Cross described as “wiped off the map,” according to The New York Times.

Highlighting nature’s unpredictability, the neighborhood of Balaroa –– a few blocks from Petobo’s vast destruction –– remained fully intact, according to The New York Times.

Death tolls from the earthquake are expected to rise, and full recovery from the disaster is expected to take years, according to Al Jazeera.

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