A race against time is underway, Sunday, January 17, on the Indonesian island of Celebes (north of the archipelago) to try to find possible survivors of the earthquake that killed 60 people, according to a new report, and destroyed the homes of thousands of people.
Hospitals are overwhelmed by the influx of injured since the magnitude 6.2 earthquake, according to the American Institute of Geophysics (USGS), which happened at dawn on Friday. It triggered panic among the inhabitants of the west of the island, already devastated in 2018 by a very strong earthquake followed by a devastating tsunami that killed 4,300 people.
For the past two days, dozens of lifeless bodies have been removed from the rubble of collapsed buildings in Mamuju, the provincial capital with 110,000 inhabitants, where a hospital and a shopping center have been destroyed. Other victims were found further south, where a strong aftershock was felt on Saturday morning.
Aerial images of the city show many ruined buildings. It is not known how many bodies are still under the rubble, or if survivors are still trapped there. The authorities gave no figures as to the number of people rescued.
Thousands of people who have lost their homes have taken refuge in makeshift shelters, as monsoon rains worsen their conditions. Many say they are running out of food and blankets. Food and emergency equipment were dispatched to the island by planes and boats, and the national navy sent a medical vessel to supplement the hospitals still operating but overwhelmed.
Other people do not want to go home for fear of aftershocks or a tsunami. “It’s better to take shelter in case something worse happens”, explains a resident of Mamuju, Abdul Wahab, who took refuge in a tent with his wife and four children, including a baby. “We hope that the government can quickly send us aid, food, medicine and milk for the children”, he said.
Worried about a possible outbreak of Covid-19 in overcrowded camps, the authorities have announced that they will try to form groups of people according to the risks. “The situation in Indonesia is an emergency, said the NGO Project HOPE. The Covid-19 further complicates the answer. “
Landslides, which followed the earthquake, and heavy rains cut off access to one of the province’s main roads. The airport was also damaged as well as a hotel, while part of the city remains without electricity.
This earthquake is not, however, the only natural disaster currently hitting the archipelago. On the Indonesian part of the neighboring island of Borneo, at least five people have died in flooding and dozens are missing. Floods also killed five people in Manado, the large city in the far north of Celebes. In West Java province, at least 28 people died as a result of the rains.
At the other end of the same island, the Semeru erupted on Saturday night, spewing a column of smoke and dust at an altitude of 4,500 meters, as glowing lava flowed down its flanks. No casualties were reported in this eruption.
The Indonesian archipelago, which lies on the Pacific ‘ring of fire’, an area of high seismic activity, often experiences earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.