The Jakarta Post
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo flew straight to Aceh after his two-day visit to Bali on Thursday to ensure an effective emergency response to Wednesday’s powerful 6.5-magnitude earthquake that struck three regencies in the province and which claimed at least 102 lives.
Jokowi led a meeting on emergency efforts in Banda Aceh immediately after his presidential plane landed at the provincial capital on Thursday night. The President instructed all relevant officials to work in synergy in handling the disaster.
After the meeting, Jokowi went to see survivors being treated in the Zainal Abidin General Hospital in Banda Aceh.
“It is important to see that medical treatment [for the victims] is provided quickly and well; I have seen it [myself],” Jokowi said.
“Tomorrow, we will examine the aid distribution, particularly the aid aimed at reconstruction,” the President added.
The large tremor, which struck the province before dawn on Wednesday, devastated at least three regencies, namely Pidie Jaya, Pidie and Bireun. The provincial administration has declared a 14-day emergency response period starting from Wednesday.
Relief efforts have been focused on Pidie Jaya, which saw at least 200 buildings collapse during the earthquake, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).
Jokowi is scheduled to get first-hand sight of the efforts in disaster-hit Pidie Jaya and visit victims in the regency.
As the death toll rises, rescue workers continued on Thursday to comb through the rubble to search for victims believed to be trapped under the debris, in a mission that involved more than 1,400 personnel from various institutions, including the military and the police, as well as volunteers.
As of Thursday evening, at least 102 people had been reported killed, about 700 were injured and more than 11,000 people were taking refuge in 28 temporary shelters and mosques, according to a report from the BNPB.
The Agency has formed three special search teams that cover the areas of Meureudu, Bandar Dua and Banda Aceh.
The BNPB has also sent aid worth Rp 3.5 billion (US$263,098), including 20 tents, food, family kits and 30 portable power generators as blackouts have continued to hit most areas of Pidie Jaya. The Social Ministry has provided seven temporary shelters.
Jokowi has also ordered the BNPB to ensure sufficient emergency supplies, particularly food and clean water, for the survivors, said BNPB head Willem Rampangilei. “So far, the disaster response we have conducted has been good and run relatively smoothly,” Willem added.
On the second day of the emergency mission, Willem, along with Public Works and Public Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono were also in Pidie Jaya to coordinate the emergency response.
Heavy equipment has been deployed since Wednesday in Meureudu, a severely affected town, to extract people from the rubble. “They lack heavy equipment that is suitable for such narrow roads,” BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
Aftershocks continued to hit Pidie Jaya on Thursday, causing anxiety and trauma to people in the temporary shelters.
Many residents of Meureudu, such as Raudah, chose to remain outside their houses or opted to shelter in nearby mosques. “I feel safer here, gathering with others, instead of staying at home,” Raudah said.
The earthquake has brought back memories of the 2004 Aceh earthquake — the strongest earthquake registered in the world for 40 years, which caused a devastating tsunami and left more than 220,000 dead across the Indian Ocean.
Condolences have been sent from overseas, and the European Union, Japan, Singapore and China have expressed a readiness to help.
Individuals and local administrations in neighboring provinces and in many other places across the country have joined the efforts to assist the victims, with some collecting donations. Aid and volunteers have also already been dispatched to the affected areas.
Four warships are on standby at Belawan Naval Base in North Sumatra to transport emergency logistical and medical aid, as well as to deploy volunteers and medical workers to Aceh at any time.