Frustration grows among earthquake survivors in Indonesia

World Today

INDONESIA-QUAKERescuers walk past debris at Perumnas Balaroa village in Palu, Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi on October 5, 2018, following the September 28 earthquake and tsunami. Search teams made desperate last-ditch efforts on October 5 to find survivors in destroyed buildings a week on from Indonesia’s devastating quake-tsunami, as the death toll from the disaster rose above 1,500. / AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN

More than a week after an earthquake and tsunami rocked Indonesia, the death toll has risen to more than 16-hundred. But hundreds more are still missing, and the government is considering halting the search in some areas, and simply turning them into mass graves. 

CGTN’s Barnaby Lo reports on the growing frustration among the survivors.

Meyren Hamaele was only 20, but her family says all signs were that she had a promising future. She had just been promoted in her job at the Mercure Hotel in Palu. The hotel, and her future, are all gone now, swept away by the earthquake and tsunami that hit Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province last week.

Search and rescue workers said six of the hotel staff were trapped inside the building during the earthquake and tsunami. They’ve been able to find three, but all were dead, including Meyren. They said that an undetermined number of guests remain trapped inside the building.

Despite ongoing aftershocks, Meyren’s father, Martinus Hamaele, went inside the hotel to personally search for his daughter in the immediate aftermath. He knew that if Meyren were still alive, she must be rescued quickly, in order to survive.

“I felt strongly that my daughter was still alive the first three days after the earthquake and tsunami,” he said. “But the rescue operation was going slowly; I think that’s why she didn’t make it.”

Hamaele was able to find other survivors.

“Me and my son helped four people crawl out of a tiny space under the rubble,” he said.

Hamaele said being able to save someone made it worth the risk and effort. It’s hard to find a survivor in Palu who hasn’t lost a loved one. Despite the many who are still missing, the government says it’s time to turn its attention to the living, who need urgent help. But evacuees said the help they’ve received so far has been very limited.

“So far, we’ve only gotten some rice and five cups of noodles,” said one survivor.

All over Palu there are makeshift evacuation camps like this one, where even the tents have been set up by survivors acting on their own.