On Friday, September 28 the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia was struck by a series of powerful earthquakes and a destructive tsunami. The largest of the earthquakes was 7.4 in magnitude and followed by a terrifying tsunami. In some areas the water reached as high as 19 feet.
“Indonesian Red Cross rescue teams are reporting frightened survivors huddled in devastated cities that continue to be rocked by aftershocks,” said Sydney Morton of the American Red Cross.
While the full extent of the disaster is not yet clear, at least 844 people lost their lives including 821 people in the devastated city of Palu. Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency has warned that the final death toll may be in the thousands. There are also reports of entire houses being sucked into the ground.
RACING TO REACH HARDEST HIT AREAS
The shallow 7.4 magnitude earthquake’s epicenter was near Donggala, which is home to around 300,000 people. The Donggala area had been completely cut off until yesterday, September 30. An Indonesian Red Cross rescue team managed to gain access yesterday to Sigi, an area just south of Donggala. Right now Red Cross search and rescue experts are focused on Palu, Sigi and Donggala.
Jan Gelfand of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Jakarta said, “The situation in the affected areas is nightmarish. The city of Pula has been devastated and the first reports out of Donggala indicate that it has also been hit extremely hard by the double disaster.”
LIFESAVING AID, RED CROSS RESPONSE
More than 179 volunteers and staff from the Indonesian Red Cross are currently on the ground, bravely working with government agencies to conduct search and rescue activities, provide medical support and distribute relief goods. The Red Cross also sent 15 ambulances and 22 water trucks. Additional relief supplies and critical aid are on the way from five regional warehouses.
Early assessments indicate that the most urgent needs will be medical care for survivors and provision of food, shelter, blankets and clean water. Residents also need communication tools to help account for their loved ones.
“Red Cross and other teams are working around the clock but the biggest challenge at the moment is getting access to all communities, and then bringing large quantities of vital relief supplies into the disaster zone. Transport links, power and communications are still down,” Gelfand explained.
The Red Cross is also helping to comfort traumatized survivors. “People in Sulawesi, especially children, will be coping with the emotional impacts of this event for a long time,” explained Sydney Morton of the American Red Cross. “More than two months after the massive earthquakes in Lombok, Indonesia we are still seeing children who fear loud noises and yell ‘earthquake’ as cars drive by.” Residents in Lombok, Indonesia—located south of Sulawesi—endured a series of powerful earthquakes and aftershocks earlier this summer, including one of 7.0 in magnitude.
The Red Cross will continue to provide lifesaving relief services and critical aid—along with hope and comfort—to the residents of Sulawesi as they cope with the impacts of this devastating disaster.
ABOUT AMERICAN RED CROSS IN SULAWESI AND LOMBOK
The American Red Cross has thus far contributed $1 million to relief efforts on the islands of Sulawesi and Lombok — in addition to deploying five disaster responders.
Prior to the earthquake, the American Red Cross worked alongside the Indonesian Red Cross to prepare communities — including through disaster simulations, teaching earthquake preparedness in schools, and providing first aid training.
MEDIA INQUIRIES ONLY:
In Washington, DC:
Sydney Morton +1 203 216 8849, firstname.lastname@example.org
Iris van Deinse, IFRC, +31 612 894 923
Aulia Arriani, Indonesian Red Cross, +62 816 79 5379
Matthew Cochrane, +41 79 251 80 39, email@example.com
Alison Freebairn, +41 79 251 93 33, firstname.lastname@example.org
On twitter: @palangmerah, @IFRCAsiaPacific
Are you looking for a loved one?
If you are looking for a missing relative, you can speak to a caseworker at your local American Red Cross office. Please find your nearest chapter by clicking this link and entering your zip code.
For inquiries concerning U.S. citizens missing in Indonesia, please contact the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens Services, at 1-888-407-4747 and http://www.usa.gov/directory/federal/overseas-citizens-services.shtml.