Indonesia’s president invited contributions from abroad as rescue teams struggled to reach victims of a magnitude 7.6 earthquake in Padang on Thursday. Thousands are feared dead.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who had just arrived back from the G20 meeting, told reporters Indonesia could coordinate the relief efforts but welcomed help from other countries.
Telephone connections were patchy, making it hard for officials to work out the extent of destruction and loss of life from Wednesday’s quake. Australian businesswoman Jane Liddon told Australian radio from Padang that the city centre was devastated. “The big buildings are down. The concrete buildings are all down, the hospitals, the main markets, down and burned.”
The Ambacang Hotel had also collapsed and an official said people remained trapped in the Dutch colonial-era building. On the road into the Padang area, Nasaruddin, 45, had constructed a make-shift shelter from poles and a tarpaulin to try and shelter his family after his house had collapsed.
“We just ask that people know that we need donations very badly. Look at my family,” said the father-of-four.
A Reuters reporter in the city said rescuers were pulling people from buildings, but there was little sign of much aid being distributed yet. Fuel was also in short supply and there was a report of looting, while some shops had run out of food.
Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari told reporters at an airport in Jakarta before leaving for Padang that the number of dead could be numbered in the thousands, given the widespread damage. A worker compiling disaster data at the social ministry put the number killed of confirmed deaths at 529.
Australia, South Korea and Japan were among nations offering aid or help. Two Indonesian Hercules transport planes carrying medical aid, as well as 20,000 tents and 10,000 blankets, also flew to Padang on Thursday, the Antara state news agency reported. Officials said more heavy equipment such as bulldozers, excavators and concrete cutters were badly needed.
Source: Reuters (01/10/2009)