A man walks past ruins of cars and structures destroyed in the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
A man walks past ruins of cars and structures destroyed in the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Power restored to Indonesian quake city, but fate of thousands unknown

By By Kanupriya Kapoor And Fathin Ungku Time of article published Oct 4, 2018

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PALU - Electricity was restored

and some shops reopened in Indonesia's quake and tsunami

stricken city of Palu on Thursday, but the fate of many

thousands of people in outlying districts was unknown nearly a

week after the disaster struck.

The small city of 370,000 people has been the focus of the

aid effort launched after last Friday's 7.5 magnitude earthquake

and tsunami on the west coast of Sulawesi island.

International help in searching for survivors has gathered

pace, but communities in more remote areas have been cut off by

broken roads, landslides and crippled communications, leaving

people increasingly desperate for basic needs as aid has only

just begun to trickle through.

By Thursday, the official death toll stood at 1,424, but it

will certainly rise as bodies were still being recovered in

Palu, where most of the dead have been counted. Figures for more

remote areas were only trickling in, if at all.

"There are so many challenges with this disaster, it's never

been so bad," said Frida Sinta, an aid volunteer trying to get

basic food and other supplies out to fellow residents of Palu.

The city, 1,500 km (930 miles) northeast of Indonesia's

capital, Jakarta, has teetered close to chaos this week, with

outbreaks of looting, but a recovery was evident as some shops

and banks reopened and a major mobile phone network was back up.

Orderly queues formed at petrol stations after the arrival

of fuel shipments and late in the day, traffic lights and

televisions flickered back to life as the power came back on.

The improvements are helping with the aid effort.

"We carry whatever we can by car or motorbike within the

city wherever we can. But not yet to the most inaccessible

places," Sinta said.

Altogether, the badly affected areas in the disaster zone

include some 1.4 million people.

Rescue workers are pushing into outlying districts, where

residents say they have been scavenging for coconuts, bananas

and cassava.

Villagers rushed a Red Cross helicopter that landed near the

town of Donggala, northwest of Palu, to distribute bread and

other food, a Reuters photographer said.

National disaster mitigation agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo

Nugroho told a briefing the main roads to the south, west and

east of Palu had been opened.

But there has been scant information about conditions on the

road to the north, along the coast towards the epicentre of the

quake, 78 km (50 miles) from Palu.

"There's no data," said Abdul Haris of the national search

and rescue agency, when asked about the string of small

settlements that line the road, which passes some sandy beaches

that attract a trickle of tourists.

"GOD DOES NOT STRIKE TWICE"

While the power is back in Palu, it will take much longer

for people to pick up the pieces of their lives.

"We will start again here ourselves because God does not

strike twice," said Eko Joko who was building a new house, a

wooden A-frame home, in the midst of a wasteland of concrete,

mangled sheets of iron and uprooted trees near Palu's beach.

.

In Palu's Balaroa district, badly hit by deadly soil

liquefaction, Asril Abdul Hamid, 35, was poking through the

wreckage of his home. He salvaged a few mementoes including a

family portrait.

"My immediate family is safe, thank God, but my cousin was

killed,” he told Reuters, adding that his family had got food

and water in the past few days.

Not far away, rescuers were using small flags to mark the

location of bodies found in the debris.

"We discovered eight bodies with the rescue team but we

haven't been able to bring them out because we don't have the

right equipment," said district police chief Andi Samsudin

Effendy.

The body of a South Korean man, who had been in Palu for a

sports event, was also found in the ruins of a hotel where

dozens of people were killed.

Just to the east of Palu, the 500-tonne KM Sabuk Nusantara

39, lies, high and dry in a dock-side settlement, where the

tsunami picked it up and dumped it. No one on board was hurt.

Engineer Charles Marlan, waiting with fellow crewmen on

board the marooned ship for its owners to decide what to do,

said he was thankful his ship had not killed anyone on land, as

far as they knew.

"What is important is we are alive and for that we should be

grateful," he said.

Straddling the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire,

Indonesia has long been vulnerable to quakes and tsunamis.

In 2004, a quake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami

across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 people in 13

countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

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Reuters

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