MANADO, Indonesia — Catholic humanitarian groups have joined the efforts to support the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi Friday.
A 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck 6 miles beneath Sulawesi just after 6pm Sept. 28. It set off a tsunami, which caused 20-foot-high waves that devastated coastal cities, including, prominently, Palu. The quake also caused landslides and power outages. At least 844 people have died as a result of the disaster.
The country’s tsunami warning system had reportedly been damaged. Though an alert was issued, the size of the waves were underestimated, and power outages from the tremors caused many people not to receive an alert at all, according to the BBC.
Catholic Relief Services and the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund have provided relief funds and teams to address the emergency situation. As heavy damage has affected access points and infrastructure, CRS has had difficulty in reaching devastated areas.
“Humanitarian groups are struggling to get people into affected areas,” Yenni Suryani, CRS’ Indonesia country manager, said Sept. 30. “With the airport damaged, getting access to Palu and Donggala is a huge problem. Responders and local aid groups are having to drive over land 10 to 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.”
Suryani said many people are expected to still be trapped alive underneath the buildings, noting there have been reports of shouts and lights, possibly from cellphones, among the rubble.
The CRS teams are joining local partners in the area, addressing needs by providing such supplies as tarps, blankets, sanitation kits and sleeping mats. Suryani said a lack of water and fuel are also a concern that needs to be addressed.
Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund has partnered with Caritas Indonesia and contributed more than $25,000 to relief efforts. SCIAF Director Alistair Dutton expressed apprehension over the situation and said his prayers would be with the Indonesian victims.
“I’m deeply concerned to see the news of deaths, injuries and destruction following the terrible tsunami which has hit Palu city in Indonesia,” he said. “My thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones and are now left to pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives.”