GENEVA - Aid agencies are gearing up for a major relief operation to help the survivors of the earthquake-tsunami disaster in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. The 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck just over a week ago, killing more than 1,600 people, with death toll continuing to climb.
Now that search and rescue missions are winding down, aid agencies are focusing on providing earthquake survivors with immediate and long-range relief. U.N. and international agencies are conducting assessment missions to pinpoint areas of greatest need.
And, the needs are great. An estimated 65,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed, with more than 70,000 people made homeless. The United Nations is appealing for $50.5 million to assist more than 190,000 people over the next three months.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has deployed three experts in disaster relief to Sulawesi to oversee its extensive relief operation. IOM spokesman, Paul Dillon, says a priority will be to reach people in hard-hit areas that remain inaccessible.
“Part of the problem is the areas that are closest to the tsunami; where the tsunami hit hardest, are literally buried in mud. So, you have people circling those areas trying to get in but it is literally inaccessible. You are 200 meters from the remains of buildings, but you cannot actually get into those areas because the mud is thigh or waist-deep,” Dillon said.
On Saturday, IOM will deliver more than 83,000 liters of drinking water in re-usable plastic bottles to Donggala, one of the worst affected towns. It also will be distributing thousands of emergency shelter kits and non-food items to Sulawesi’s earthquake survivors.
?The Indonesian Red Cross operation is focusing on finding shelter for the displaced, on providing medical care, and on tracing and reuniting families who have been separated by the disaster.