Quake victims struggle to survive as they resort to looting

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Victims of Sulawesi earthquake struggle to survive as they resort to looting for necessities

PALU: After death comes the desperation.

Long snaking lines waiting to collect fuel, crowds at the airport waiting to get out and people looting stores because they are hungry.

That was the situation in Palu city as Indonesia scrambled yesterday to get help onto quake-hit Sulawesi island.

The confirmed death toll of 844 was certain to rise as rescuers reached devastated outlying communities hit last Friday by a 7.5-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami waves as high as 6m.

We need everything, food, water. We took anything we could take. So that is why we looted.Teenagers looting a store in Palu

A Reuters witness said queues at petrol stations on the approaches to Palu stretched for miles.

Convoys carrying food, water and fuel awaited police escorts to prevent pilfering before heading towards the city while residents streamed out.

The state energy company said it was airlifting in 4,000 litres of fuel, while Indonesia's logistics agency said it would send hundreds of tonnes of rice. The government has allocated 560 billion rupiah (S$51 million) for the recovery.

The government has played down worries about looting though witnesses have seen incidents.

Hundreds of desperate people looted supermarkets and petrol stations on Sunday, reported AFP.

Hordes of residents were seen scrambling over broken glass and through broken-down barricades at a supermarket in the centre of Palu.

Men and women made off with plastic bin bags and baskets full of biscuits, crisps, nappies, gas canisters, tissue paper and more.

"There has been no aid, we need to eat. We do not have any other choice, we must get food," shouted one man.

"We are in a crisis," cried another.

Two small aftershocks hit while looters marauded through the building, prompting screams of "Earthquake, earthquake".

But undeterred, more and more mopeds arrived, depositing people in front of the store.

"This situation forced us to do this. We need everything, food, water," said a group of teenagers.

"We took anything we could take. We can't even cook. So that is why we looted."

Commercial flights have yet to resume but military aircraft were taking people out of Palu.

About 3,000 people thronged the small airport hoping to get out and officers struggled to keep order.

"I would get a plane anywhere. I've been waiting for two days. Haven't eaten, barely had a drink," said 44-year-old food vendor Wiwid.

Nearly three days after the quake, the extent of the disaster was still not known, with the authorities bracing for the toll to climb - perhaps into the thousands - as connections with remote areas up and down the coast are restored.

Aid worker Lian Gogali, who had reached Donggala district by motorcycle, said hundreds of people facing a lack of food and medicine were trying to get out, but evacuation teams had yet to arrive and roads were blocked.

"It is devastating," she told Reuters by text.

Indonesian Red Cross spokesman Aulia Arriani said a church in an area of Sigi, south of Palu, had been engulfed in mud and debris.

Officials said the area suffered liquefaction, which is when the shock of the quake temporarily destabilises the soil.

"My volunteers found 34 bodies... children (who were at) a bible camp," Ms Arriani said. - REUTERS, AFP

Donations for Sulawesi quake-tsunami victims pour in; SAF stands ready

The Singapore Red Cross (SRC) raised more than $20,000 in just 10 hours as donations poured in to help the victims of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Sulawesi last Friday.

Both the SRC and homegrown disaster relief agency Mercy Relief launched public fund-raising appeals yesterday.

Phone lines at the SRC rang off the hook even before it launched its online appeal at noon, with the charity receiving numerous calls, e-mails and social media messages from concerned members of the public, its secretary general and chief executive, Mr Benjamin William, told The New Paper.

"We are heartened by the display of support and solidarity," he said.


A 7.5-magnitude earthquake had rocked the Indonesian province of Central Sulawesi on Friday and triggered a 6m-high tsunami, leaving destruction in its wake.

The death toll is more than 800 and rising.

The Straits Times reported yesterday that about 2.4 million people in provincial capital Palu, and Donggala, the region close to Friday's epicentre, will need humanitarian aid.

The SRC has pledged $50,000 in aid, with all donations going towards the purchase of relief items, as well as the longer-term recovery and rebuilding efforts in Sulawesi, its spokesman said yesterday.


Mercy Relief said it is not collecting in-kind donations, and the $10,000 it aims to raise will go towards procuring the necessary relief items locally.

A two-man team from Mercy Relief will be travelling to Palu this morning to provide the first phase of emergency relief distribution.

A spokesman said Mercy Relief is working closely with its local partners and will continue to monitor the situation to determine its next phase of disaster relief.

The SRC has readied a three-person advance response team that could leave as early as today on a six-day mission to conduct ground assessments and support the Palang Merah Indonesia (Indonesian Red Cross) in distributing relief supplies.

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is also ready to provide assistance.

In a Facebook post yesterday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said he had written to his Indonesian counterpart, retired general Ryamizard Ryacudu, expressing his condolences and assuring him that the SAF is standing ready.

Mr Ng wrote: "Our C-130s stand ready to deliver help. Our prayers go to the survivors for their pain and suffering to be alleviated."

How you can help 


Mercy Relief’s appeal will last until Oct 31.

  • Credit card donation via Mercy Relief’s website:
  • Crossed cheque made out to “Mercy Relief Limited” with “Sulawesi Earthquake 2018 Relief” and e-mail address written on the back of the cheque, and mailed to Blk 160, Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, #01-1568, Singapore 310160
  • Cash donations at Blk 160, Lorong 1 Toa Payoh, #01-1568, Singapore 310160
  • Fund transfer to Mercy Relief’s DBS Current Account 054-900741-2
  • Crowdfund via for the “Sulawesi Earthquake 2018 Relief”: lawesi_earthquake_2018


  • Online donation at
  • Cash donation at Red Cross House, 15 Penang Lane, Singapore 238486 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
  • Cheque donation: Make cheque payable to ‘Singapore Red Cross Society’ and post it to Red Cross House, 15 Penang Lane, Singapore 238486 . Write your name and postal address and indicate “Sulawesi Earthquake 2018” at the back of your cheque.

1,200 convicts on the run after Indonesia quake

JAKARTA: Some 1,200 Indonesian convicts are on the run from three different detention facilities in devastated Sulawesi after the region was rocked by a powerful earthquake and tsunami, a Justice Ministry official said yesterday.

One prison in tsunami-struck Palu city - built to hold just 120 people - saw most of its 581 inmates storm past guards and escape to freedom through walls collapsed by the massive 7.5-magnitude shake.

"Things were initially fine... but not long after the quake, water erupted from under the prison yard causing prisoners to panic and then run on to the road," said Ministry of Justice official Sri Puguh Utami, adding that the water was not from the tsunami.

"I am sure they escaped because they feared they would be affected by the earthquake," she added.

Inmates had fled from another overcapacity facility in Palu by breaking down its main door and a third in Donggala, an area also hit by the disaster.

The Donggala jail was set on fire and all 343 inmates are now on the run, Ms Utami said.

The arson was thought to have been sparked by angry detainees demanding to see their families.

Over 100 prisoners at the two facilities in Palu are still in jail, but overstretched guards are struggling to keep them fed due to a shortage of food. - AFP