Six days after a series of earthquakes struck the Indonesian province of Central Sulawesi and triggered a powerful tsunami, Red Cross teams are working hard to quickly find and help survivors affected by the double disaster.
While the full extent of the disaster is still emerging, the 7.3 magnitude earthquake, resulting powerful tsunami, and liquefaction have killed more than 1,400 people and destroyed more than 65,000 houses.
Red Cross teams are seeing damaged buildings, houses flattened and swept away, and a thick blanket of mud and debris covering entire landscapes. While many displaced people have been evacuated to other parts of the island, more than 70,000 remain in the disaster zone.
Red Cross Teams Working Around the Clock
Some 400 volunteers and staff from the Indonesian Red Cross (locally referred to as Palang Merah Indonesia) are on the ground and conducting search and rescue activities, providing medical support, and comforting the terrified survivors.
On 3 October, an Indonesian Red Cross team reached the town of Petobo on the border of Palu and Sigi. The town was destroyed by soil liquefaction following the earthquake and tsunami. Indonesian Red Cross teams have recovered the bodies of at least 14 people. Search and rescue work is continuing.
Iris van Deinse, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), was with the team that reached Petobo. “Red Cross responders are pushing their way through debris and damaged roads to reach new areas and try to help the survivors, and they are finding devastation and tragedy everywhere,” said van Deinse.
“When we arrived in Petobo, we found that it had been wiped off the map by the power of the tsunami. We’re doing everything we can to bring medical treatment, clean water and support to the worst-affected areas. The survivors of this disaster have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods. We cannot let them lose hope as well,” said van Deinse.
The Red Cross is doing all it can to overcome major logistical and access challenges. With so many roads still impassible, the Red Cross is bringing 70 tons of aid in by boat. The first ship—loaded with vital goods and equipment—docked at Makassar today. The ship is carrying water trucks, field kitchens, baby kits, mosquito nets, mattresses, hygiene supplies, tents, and body bags. These goods are now being taken over ground to Palu and are expected to arrive on Saturday.
Health and Medical Concerns
Red Cross teams are providing critical medical care in the hardest hit areas. Mobile health clinics have been set up in Donggala, Palu and Sigi and doctors are treating people—including many women and children—who are suffering from open wounds, broken bones, and bruises. Since people are sleeping in tents or on the street without access to food and clean drinking water, the doctors are also responding to cases of diarrhea, stomach problems and flu. Red Cross ambulances are not currently able to reach the center of Sigi as the roads are too badly damaged.
Clean drinking water is an urgent priority. The earthquake and tsunami disrupted and contaminated water supplies, putting communities at risk of water-borne diseases such as diarrhea and cholera. Already, Red Cross volunteers are reporting respiratory and diarrheal diseases, including among children.
Shattered communities across Sulawesi had a fresh scare on October 3 when a volcano, Mount Soputan, erupted in the north of the island. While the eruption was dramatic, there have been no reports of casualties or damage, and it is not expected to cause further problems for agencies trying to reach the communities affected by the earthquakes and tsunami.
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.
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.
MEDIA INQUIRIES ONLY:
In Washington, DC:
Sydney Morton, American Red Cross: +1 202 303 5551, sydney.morton[at]redcross.org
Iris van Deinse, IFRC, +31 612 894 923
Aulia Arriani, Indonesian Red Cross, +62 816 79 5379
On twitter: @palangmerah, @IFRCAsiaPacific