The Jakarta Post
Although he has refused to declare the deadly earthquake and tsunami in Central Sulawesi a national disaster, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo says Indonesia will accept foreign aid and is expected to soon issue a presidential instruction to expedite its implementation and distribution.
Foreign governments and international organizations were ready to lend a helping hand, for which we can only express our wholehearted gratitude, as soon as the disaster struck Palu and nearby areas on the afternoon of Friday.
Government clearance is essential to the entry of foreign aid, as survivors lack basic needs while domestic relief efforts have been slow to arrive, hampered in part by severe damage to the local infrastructure.
The presidential instruction is thus crucial to dampen any reluctance among local authorities in accepting foreign aid, and to ensure coordination among all parties. An earlier government regulation clearly mandates flexible coordination of foreign in emergencies. The ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Center (AHA Center) in Jakarta, the regional hub for coordinating disaster management and assistance, estimates that the latest disaster potentially affects a population of more than 1.5 million in Central Sulawesi and neighboring West Sulawesi.
The work of finding and rescuing survivors and recovering bodies from the rubble has been interrupted by blackouts and a lack of equipment. This is even more so in isolated areas, while experts say aftershocks could follow, along with widespread liquefaction. It has been confirmed that liquefied soil as a result of the earthquake has swallowed up several residential areas in Palu with an unknown number of casualties that is likely to increase the latest death toll of more than 1,230 people.
With thousands wanting to flee Palu following rumors of another tsunami, too few civilian and military aircraft are available, while flights to Palu are full with aid workers and volunteers.
Obviously we need all the help we can get, regardless of the Central Sulawesi catastrophe not qualifying as a national disaster — similar to August’s Lombok earthquakes in West Nusa Tenggara, the 2009 Padang quake in West Sumatra and the 2006 Yogyakarta earthquake.
Indonesia will need ever more helping hands to save the survivors of the Central Sulawesi quakes from the looming threat of disease and other post-disaster health complications.
During the Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono administration, Indonesia welcomed foreign aid from across the globe when the Dec. 26, 2004 earthquake and tsunami devastated Aceh and Nias in North Sumatra, leaving some 150,000 dead or missing. The nation earned respect from clear attempts to coordinate relief efforts as best as possible, despite shortcomings.
Once again, we thank all foreign governments and organizations that are reaching out to help some 60,000 of our fellow citizens who are displaced and grieving in Central Sulawesi.