The central government and local authorities have scrambled to lead disaster relief efforts to assist the victims of a powerful earthquake that struck Central Sulawesi at 6:02 p.m. local time on Friday.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto led a meeting with ministers and state institutions on Friday evening to set a plan of action that will involve the deployment of personnel, dispatch of aid and reparation of damaged facilities.
Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu suffered damages to its navigation system as well as 500 meters of its 2,500-m-long runway as a result of the earthquake, which made it impossible for large aircraft to land, Wiranto said.
However, the government said it expected that the remaining 2,000 m of the runway could still be used for the landing of a Hercules cargo aircraft and CN-235 aircraft, so that authorities could speed up the deployment of personnel and delivery of aid, including medical assistance and food supplies, to the affected areas.
"The Transportation Ministry will deploy one helicopter from Makassar to Palu while bringing navigation equipment, which will be used to handle aircraft that can deliver supplies," he said, adding that by 10 a.m. the runway was expected to be used for landing by the Hercules aircraft.
"Air transportation is very vital and important. If the air transportation returns, we hope the assistance can immediately arrive to the affected areas," he said.
Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel stationed near the affected areas and officials from Gorontalo, Mamuju and Makassar have been on the move to help clear building debris to find and rescue any victims who might be trapped, Wiranto said.
Other personnel from the military, the police as well as volunteers would follow suit to help in the disaster relief, he said.
As of Friday evening, the government has yet to receive reports about the number of victims who died in the disaster because the communications system was damaged, and so authorities would immediately repair it, Wiranto said.
"If the problem still persists, we will try using satellite communication from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency [BNPB] and the Communications and Information Ministry in the morning. We believe that data gathering activities will start by then," he said.