The Indonesian government says foreign aid workers who traveled to the island of Sulawesi after a devastating earthquake and tsunami last month must leave the country.
Foreign aid agencies went to the quake zone after the earthquake on September 28 triggered a tsunami, causing massive destruction. The official death toll is nearing 2,000, with about 5,000 more people missing and presumed dead; 70,000 people have been displaced.
Indonesia's national disaster mitigation agency (BNBP) issued new regulations for international nongovernmental organizations, saying, "Foreign NGOs who have deployed foreign personnel are advised to retrieve their personnel immediately." The announcement comes days before search efforts are scheduled to end. The Reuters news agency reports the search will be called off from Thursday, with officials citing concern about the spread of disease.
Authorities also instructed foreign NGOs to provide aid through the Indonesian Red Cross, although multiple groups said they had trouble obtaining permits to bring in staff and equipment. Aid workers also said the rules governing what help they could provide were confusing.
Indonesia has been reluctant to rely on outside help with disaster assistance in the past. The country refused aid when the island of Lombok was hit by earthquakes earlier this year. The government, however, did make an exception following last month's 7.5 magnitude earthquake and tsunami on Sulawesi.
Observers have said the government may not want to appear incapable and that the decision may have been influenced by elections set for next year.