News World 200,000 in desperate need of help in quake-hit Indonesia

200,000 in desperate need of help in quake-hit Indonesia

palu earthquake
Quake surivors mob a truck carrying food in Palu. Photo: Getty
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The UN’s humanitarian office says almost 200,000 people – including tens of thousands of children – desperately need help after last week’s earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia.

Survivors are battling thirst and hunger, with food and clean water in short supply, and local hospitals are overwhelmed by the number of injured, the United Nations says.

“The sense from the teams all working there … is one of real frustration,” Jens Laerke, from the UN’s humanitarian office, said in Geneva late on Tuesday (local time).

“There are still large areas of what might be the worst-affected areas that haven’t been properly reached, but the teams are pushing, they are doing what they can.”

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said logistics and fuel were still limited.

“We need quite a lot of tents,” he said. “Food, drinks, clean water and sanitation facilities are very much needed.”

The Indonesian government has ordered that aid be flown in, but there has so far been little sign of help on the shattered streets of Palu, the worst-hit city. Channel News Asia reported that survivors appeared increasingly desperate.

Police have done little to stop outbreaks of looting. The government has played down the problem, saying victims can take essentials and shops will be compensated.

An estimated 66,000 homes were destroyed or damaged by the 7.5-magnitude quake and the tsunami it spawned on September 28.

Rescuers says time is running out for anyone who remains trapped in the rubble. On Wednesday, the official death toll from the earthquake stood at 1374, with 113 people listed as missing.

Mr Nugroho said late on Tuesday that rescuers had reached all four of the badly affected districts. He declined to give an estimate of casualties.

“We hope the death toll does not rise,” he said. “We’re continuing rescue operations but right now the team is racing against time.”

A scooter is used to transport looted goods through Palu. Photo: Getty

The quake brought down hotels, shopping malls and countless houses in Palu, while tsunami waves as high as six metres scoured its beachfront shortly afterwards.

About 1700 houses in one neighbourhood were swallowed up by ground liquefaction, which happens when soil shaken by an earthquake behaves like a liquid. Hundreds of people are believed to have perished.

The Indonesian government has said it will accept offers of international aid after shunning outside help earlier this year when an earthquake struck Lombok.

Among the rescuers will be more than 50 Australian medical professionals, who will be sent as part of a $5 million aid package.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has been in contact with her Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison is continuing talks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo about possible further Australian support.

“That will be considered on a case-by-case basis,” Senator Payne said.

Mr Morrison said it was a “very, very significant crisis” and Australia’s support won’t only be aimed at short-term relief.

“The sort of responses we are going to be making, won’t just deal with what is needed right today, but over some period of time as well,” he said.

New Zealand’s government has also put up $NZ1.6 million ($A1.5 million) towards helping aid workers.

International humanitarian agencies had spoken to the Indonesian government and were also ready to help, Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the main UN aid co-ordinating agency, OCHA, said.

US President Donald Trump extended condolences in a phone call with Widodo, a State Department spokeswoman said. The US had provided initial funding, deployed disaster experts and was working to determine what other help could be given, she said.

-with agencies