Indonesia: After seeing floods, Joko now visits quake zone

An Indonesian soldier prepares food assistance to be distributed for people affected by the earthquake at a temporary shelter at Manakarra stadium in Mamuju, West Sulawesi province, Indonesia, January 18, 2021 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. - Reuters

MAMUJU, Indonesia (AP): Relief workers worked to clear up rubble of collapsed buildings Tuesday on an Indonesian island where a deadly earthquake left thousands of people homeless.

The 6.2 magnitude earthquake Friday that killed at least 84 people was one of multiple recent disasters in Indonesia.

President Joko Widodo visited a flood-hit area on Borneo island on Monday and was scheduled to visit the quake-hit areas of West Sulawesi province Tuesday to reassure people the government’s response is reaching those struggling after the quake.

The National Search and Rescue Agency counted at least 30,000 survivors who have moved to shelters in the hard-hit city of Mamuju and its neighbouring district of Majene in West Sulawesi, as the government and aid agencies pooled efforts to meet the survival needs of shaken communities.

Four days after the disaster, the streets of the provincial capital Mamuju were still covered in debris and most people have slept outdoors, fearful their homes would crumble if strong aftershocks come.

On Tuesday, sniffer dogs were again used in the search for bodies and possible survivors in Mamuju, a city of nearly 300,000 people, strewn with debris from collapsed buildings. The governor’s office building was almost flattened and a shopping mall was reduced to a crumpled hulk.

Before he arrived in Mamuju on Tuesday, Widodo mobilised military and police to support rescue and relief operations.

The president had traveled Monday to flood-affected areas in South Kalimantan province on Borneo, the island known for rainforests and orangutans where floods since last week have inundated several regions. The floods killed several villagers and forced tens thousands of people to flee their homes. Floods also reported in many other provinces in the vast archipelago nation.

Widodo said rainfall caused the floods in South Kalimantan, but environmentalists blame deforestation by mining, palm oil and agricultural industries.

The quake and flood disasters follow a deadly landslide in West Java on Jan. 9 that left 40 people buried in tons of mud. On the same day, a Sriwijaya Air jet nosedived into the Java Sea, killing all 62 people on board.

Indonesia also last week began vaccinating health workers with a Covid-19 vaccine in a campaign that aims to immunize two-thirds of the population in the world’s fourth most populous country. It has confirmed more than 917,000 infections and 26,000 deaths from the pandemic, the most in Southeast Asia.

And on Saturday, in other part of the country, Mount Semeru, the highest volcano on Indonesia’s most densely populated island of Java, spewed hot clouds as far away as 4.5 kilometers (nearly 3 miles). The eruption caused panic but no apparent casualties.

Indonesia, home to more than 260 million people, is lined with seismic faults and is frequently hit by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis. - AP
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