BALTIMORE, MD, September 30, 2018 — A Catholic Relief Services (CRS) emergency response team is en-route to Palu, the city most affected by the tsunami that struck Indonesia on Friday, following a 7.5 earthquake, and has killed at least 800 people and toppled buildings, shopping malls and mosques. Infrastructure has also been badly damaged, and with landslides blocking roads, getting immediate relief to survivors has been a challenge.
“Humanitarian groups are struggling to get people into affected areas,” said Yenni Suryani, CRS’ Indonesia country manager from Jakarta. “With the airport damaged, getting access to Palu and Donggala is a huge problem. Responders and local aid groups are having to drive overland 10-12 hours. That means a bottleneck for relief supplies in coming days. Landslides are hindering road travel in some places. There’s very limited electricity in Palu but power is out almost everywhere. Some mobile phone towers have been repaired allowing limited communication, but it’s unreliable.”
While government agencies search for survivors, fears are mounting that the death toll will climb in the coming days and weeks. “There’s a dramatic rescue operation happening in Palu as people are calling out from under the rubble of a shopping mall and hotel,” Suryani said. “Last night, witnesses reported seeing lights, possibly from cell phones, under collapsed buildings.”
CRS teams, deployed to support local partners in the area, are ready to address immediate needs with relief supplies, including tarps, blankets and sleeping mats and also sanitation and clean-up kits.
“The lack of water and fuel will be an additional challenge. The closest reliable fuel points are hours from the affected area, and that will hamper reaching more distant communities and transporting relief goods,” Suryani said.
CRS has many years of experience responding to disasters in Indonesia, a country that experiences frequent earthquakes and was devastated by the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004.
For updates on the response to the earthquake and tsunami in Sulawesi, Indonesia, go to https://www.crs.org/press-room.