Catholic Relief Services struggle to get help to tsunami survivors


The Indonesia country manager for Catholic Relief Services says getting access to the two Sulawesi island cities most affected by Saturday’s earthquake and tsunami is proving very difficult.

Yenni Suryani said with the airport damaged, getting access to Palu and Donggala is a huge problem. Responders and local aid groups have drive overland 10-12 hours.

That means a bottleneck for relief supplies in coming days. Landslides are hindering road travel in some places, she said.

“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.”

Sunyani said she was worried about people who might have been washed away.

Indonesia’s Vice-President Jusuf Kalla has pointed out that when the Indian Ocean tsunami struck in 2004, the death toll recorded that night in Aceh, on the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, was around 40 people.

The eventual body count in Aceh exceeded 130,000.

The island of Sulawesi has been divided, at times bloodily, between Muslim and Christian populations.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was widespread communal violence in and around Poso, a port city not far from Palu that is mostly Christian.

More than 1,000 people were killed and tens of thousands dislocated from their homes as Christian and Muslim gangs battled on the streets, using machetes, bows and arrows and other crude weapons.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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