Indonesia: Thousands in tents after Sulawesi quake

News and Press Release
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Ruslan Sangadji and Andra Wisnu , The Jakarta Post , Palu, Nusa Dua

Thousands of residents in Buol regency, Central Sulawesi, were still staying Tuesday in makeshift shelters on higher ground fearing aftershocks which could trigger a tsunami.

Buol Regent Amran Batalipu told The Jakarta Post by phone that residents were still traumatized from Monday's quake.

"Bokat and Biau districts have the most residents taking refuge, at 9,750 and some 6,000 people, respectively," he said.

"Most of the residents live in coastal areas."

The residents fled to Mt. Onone, Mt. Modo and Mt. Laeka and constructed makeshift tents out of plastic sheets and even sarung clothing.

The local administrations have supplied food to the refugees.

"We have to admit that the condition is still quite worrying. Some residents are getting sick due to bad weather," Amran said.

Meanwhile, Buol resident Amrin Ali Masa said he and thousands of other residents had returned to their homes by Tuesday.

"My wife and children are still in shock but we cannot stay in the shelter," Amrin said, who is a teacher at one of Buol's elementary schools.

"That's why I asked my family to go home."

The local administration is still receiving data on the number of fatalities and the severity of damage caused by the powerful 7.7 magnitude earthquake that struck off northern Sulawesi early Monday just after midnight.

A tsunami warning was canceled after there were no signs of an impending tsunami.

The Central Sulawesi disaster management coordinating board has so far recorded about 1,500 damaged houses and public facilities with three people killed.

Buol Vice Regent Ramli Kadadia estimated that data on quake fatalities and damage could still increase as officials were still in the field collecting data.

"Not all teams have reported their findings," he said.

The Buol administration created identification teams consisting of administration employees, disaster board members, police, soldiers and journalists right after the earthquake struck.

The teams were tasked to identify fatalities and destruction in Buol's 11 districts.

Provisional field information showed that Bunobogu district suffered the most with 142 houses badly damaged, 270 houses lightly damaged, 56 residents wounded, six residents having broken ribs and two others still hospitalized.

Hasan M. Pau, 47, was severely injured after being crushed by building ruble.

"Pak Hasan subsequently died after being treated at Bunobogu community health center," Ramli said.

A death was also reported in Gorontalo province.

Meanwhile in Nusa Dua, Bali, Social Services Minister Bachtiar Chamsyah reaffirmed the government's commitment to support victims of a recent earthquake in North Sulawesi, promising Rp 400 billion (US$33 million) for food and shelter.

"We have a system in place and it works," Bachtiar said at the East Asia Ministerial Forum on Families on Tuesday.

"So I don't want to hear any news of victims families getting hungry, or I will hold the provincial leaders personally responsible," he said.

Bachtiar said the government had allocated Rp 400 billion in financial assistance for the victims, including funds to rebuild homes to the value of Rp 15 million per home, and Rp 2 million in compensation for families of deceased victims.

The government has granted permission to regents and governors of affected provinces to distribute between 50 and 200 tons of rice from the ministry's emergency stockpiles, he added.

Bachtiar urged regents and governors to cooperate with the military, police and ministry's Tagana (Disaster Response Team) to distribute the much-needed aid.

"If the respective governor fails to distribute the rice ... well, that's simply out of line," he said.

Bachtiar said the government would do everything it could to mitigate damage from disasters, citing that it had some Rp 5 trillion in emergency funds available in its coffers.