United Nations and international agencies are on the ground and more are en route to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Latest official government figures put the number of deaths at 1,234, 800 seriously injured and nearly 100 missing.
The United Nations estimates 66,000 houses have been damaged and nearly 62,000 people made homeless by the 7.4 magnitude earthquake that struck Sulawesi on Friday.
U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesman Jens Laerke says thousands of people are unable to return to their damaged or destroyed homes. Many fearful, terrified survivors are sleeping in the open as aftershocks of the devastating quake continue.
“Communication lines with affected areas were largely cut off by the disaster, and roads, bridges and airports have been severely damaged," said Laerke. "There have been numerous land and mudslides, leaving many affected communities cut off. As a result, there is still limited information about the full extent of the disaster and it is difficult to get aid and people into the affected areas.”
The International Red Cross Federation reports more than 175 volunteers and staff from the Indonesian Red Cross are conducting search and rescue activities. IFRC spokesman Matthew Cochrane says the local Red Cross is setting up a health clinic in one of the affected areas to provide basic services to the survivors.
“They are seeing a lot of bruises and fractures and open wounds. Things that you often see after an earthquak," he said. "They are also beginning to see issues related to inadequate access to food and clean water. So, diarrhea, stomach issues.”
The Indonesian government has great experience and ability to manage natural disasters. Its agencies are coordinating the response on the impact of the earthquake and tsunami with other agencies.
This is the sixth fatal tsunami to strike the country since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. That horrific event killed more than one-quarter-million people in 12 countries, the vast majority in Indonesia.