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Toll from Indonesia quake, tsunami rises as army vows to 'stop looting'

Sydney Morning Herald - October 3, 2018

James Massola & Karuni Rompies, Jakarta The confirmed death toll from an earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia's Sulawesi island has risen to 1407, the disaster mitigation agency said on Wednesday.

National Disaster Management spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the death toll had risen from 1234 on Tuesday, while the number of people injured had also risen to 2455, with 133 people missing.

He said 70,821 people were temporary refugees in 141 locations across Palu, Donggala, Sigi and the region, while 6399 rescuers were on the ground.

The urgent needs of those on the ground in Palu have not changed in the last few days access to fuel, food, clean drinking water and hospital care is still paramount.

"The focus of our job today is still evacuation [from the ruins] and searching for missing people. Repairs to infrastructure are also ongoing," Sutopo said, though he conceded that the needs of all the refugees were simply not being met.

On the ground in Palu, that admission is glaringly apparent. Fairfax Media visited the Palu suburb of Belaroa on Wednesday and locals said they had not received any water or food aid from authorities, five days after the earthquake struck.

A Basarnas (the national search and rescue agency) team was, however, on the ground with heavy machinery and trying to clear a path through to some of the worst hit houses.

Some 4413 building have been destroyed in Palu, while 733 houses have been destroyed in Donggala, according to satellite imagery.

While the offers of international help from both governments and NGOs continue to pour in 29 governments have now offered aid the Indonesian government is being very selective about what it accepts.

"According to the Health Ministry, we don't need foreign assistance of medical personnel and field hospitals. So we reject the offers made to send medical personnel and search and rescue people," Sutopo said.

Four nations had offered Hercules C-130 heavy lift aircraft to bring in supplies two from Singapore, two from South Korea, one from the UK and two from Japan.

Australia announced earlier on Wednesday it would send an extra $5 million in aid as well as well as temporary shelters, water and hygiene kits.

The country's military chief said soldiers and other forces have been deployed to Palu to guard key infrastructure, fuel depots and the airport and stop any attempts at looting.

Chief Air Marshall Hadi Tjahyanto said on Wednesday outside a collapsed hotel in the city that his forces were taking steps to ensure that security would be enforced.

He spoke as many of the city and region's residents scrambled to get food, water and other supplies with many resorting to taking things from shops and markets. The government had previously said it would reimburse shopkeepers for goods that residents were taking, given aid had not yet reached them.

"Military personnel have been deployed to fuel depots, ATMs, markets and the airport to ensure that economic activities are running. It will give the sense of security to the people so hopefully there will be no more looting," he said, adding that all supply convoys into the city will be escorted by armed soldiers.

Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo arrived in a hard-hit city to survey the damage on Wednesday. He was expected to tour various areas and visit a hospital.

He said foreign aid was starting to reach the area. Widodo said there's still a lot of work to be done, but he added that conditions are improving.

"Logistics are in and continue to spread, there are places that we haven't reached," he said. "I've instructed the governor to recommend the markets to be re-opened, we want to start reviving the economy."

-- with Reuters, AP

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/toll-from-indonesia-quake-tsunami-rises-as-army-vows-to-stop-looting-20181003-p507l5.html.

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