Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for reinforcements in a desperate search for survivors of a devastating earthquake and tsunami on Sulawesi island, as the official death toll rose above 1,200 on Tuesday and looting fueled fears of lawlessness.
Officials fear the toll could soar, as most of the confirmed dead had come from Palu, a small city 1,500 km (930 miles) northeast of Jakarta, while some remote areas have been cut off since Friday’s 7.5 magnitude quake triggered tsunami waves.
“There are some main priorities that we must tackle and the first is to evacuate, find and save victims who’ve not yet been found,” Widodo told a government meeting to coordinate disaster recovery efforts on the west coast of Sulawesi.
He said he had ordered the national search and rescue agency to send more police and soldiers into the affected districts, some cut off by destroyed roads, landslides and downed bridges.
The official death toll surged to 1,234, the national disaster agency said. Nearly 800 were seriously injured.
The Red Cross said the situation was “nightmarish” and reports from its workers venturing into one cut-off area, Donggala, a region of 300,000 people north of Palu and close to the epicenter, indicated it had been hit “extremely hard”.
A video of Donggala, broadcast by the Antara state news agency, showed widespread destruction, including flattened buildings and a ship that had been hurled into port buildings by the tsunami.
“What we need is food, water, medicine, but to up now we’ve got nothing,” said an unidentified man standing in ruins.
Four badly hit districts of Sulawesi, one of the archipelago nations five main islands, have a combined population of about 1.4 million.
In Palu, tsunami waves as high as six meters (20 feet) smashed into the beachfront, while hotels and shopping malls collapsed in ruins. Some neighborhoods were swallowed up by ground liquefaction, which happens when soil shaken by an earthquake behaves like a liquid.
About 1,700 houses in one neighborhood have disappeared beneath the mud, with hundreds of people believed buried, the national disaster agency said.
Before-and-after satellite pictures show a largely built-up neighborhood just south of Palu’s airport seemingly wiped clean of all signs of life by liquefaction.
Among those killed were 34 children at a Christian bible study camp, a Red Cross official said.
LEAVING AND LOOTING
More than 65,000 homes were damaged and more than 60,000 people have been displaced and are in need of emergency help.
Thousands of people have been streaming out of stricken areas. Commercial airlines have struggled to restore operations at Palu’s damaged airport but military aircraft have taken some survivors out. Many more want to leave.
Authorities have said a navy vessel capable of taking 1,000 people at a time would help with the evacuation.
The government has ordered aid supplies to be airlifted in but there’s little sign of help on Palu’s shattered streets and survivors appeared increasingly desperate.
A Reuters news team saw a shop cleared by about 100 people, shouting, scrambling and fighting each other for items including clothes, toiletries, blankets and water.
Many people grabbed diapers while one man clutched a rice cooker as he headed for the door. Non-essential goods were scattered on the floor amid shards of broken glass.
At least 20 police were at the scene but did not intervene. The government has played down fears of looting saying disaster victims could take essential goods and shops would be compensated later.
Indonesia is all too familiar with earthquakes and tsunamis. A quake in 2004 triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.
It has said it would accept offers of international aid, having shunned outside help earlier this year when an earthquake struck the island of Lombok.
State port operator Pelindo IV said a ship carrying 50 tonnes of supplies including rice, eggs, noodles, mineral water and baby milk had arrived in Palu on Monday. It was unclear if the aid had been distributed.
Power has yet to be restored and aftershocks have rattled jangled nerves. But rescuers in Palu held out hope they could still save lives.
“We suspect there are still some survivors trapped inside,” the head of one rescue team, Agus Haryono, told Reuters at the collapsed seven-storey Hotel Roa Roa as he pored over its blueprints.
About 50 people were believed to have been caught inside the hotel when it was brought down. About nine bodies have been recovered from the ruins and three rescued alive.
Elsewhere, on the outskirts of Palu, lorries brought 54 bodies to a mass grave dug in sandy soil.
Most of the bodies had not been claimed, a policeman said, but some relatives came to pay respects to loved ones at the 50-meter (165 ft) trench.
Rosmawati Binti Yahya, 52, was still looking for her missing daughter. But her husband was among the victims laid in the grave.
“It’s OK if he’s buried in the mass grave, it’s better to have him buried fast,” she said, as the stench from decomposing bodies filled the air.
Time Magazine Names Jamal Khashoggi, Other Journalists As “Person Of The Year”
This year’s time magazine “Person Of The Year” has been bestowed on a group of journalists that includes murdered Saudi writer, Jamal Khashoggi and two Reuters reporters imprisoned by Myanmar’s government. The magazine says it named the group of journalists as “person of the year” because the idea of truth as critical to democracy is under assault.
Also honored is the founder of a Philippines news website that has been vocal in criticizing that country’s authoritarian government. A Maryland, USA, newspaper is also among the honored.
This is the first time in its ninety-five year history that time magazine has honored people in its own profession.
The annual distinction is intended to recognize the person, group or idea that had the greatest influence on world events that year. It has been given to a wide range of influencers, from u.s. Civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. And Queen Elizabeth to Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany, who was honored before the start of world war two.
Syrian Government Using Anti-terrorism Law To Seize Properties From Dissidents
Rights groups and some of the affected Syrian people say the government has been using a little-known anti-terrorism law to seize property from dissidents and their families as it takes back control of areas that were held by rebel groups.
Now that Syria’s conflict has stabilized, and president Bashar al-Assad again controls the biggest cities, it is left to be seen how he will handle the areas where the 2011 uprising against him flared.
International attention has focused on policies, such as legislation known as law 10, that could eventually enable the government to dispossess people in the opposition strongholds worst damaged in the war.
But human rights groups say, while law 10 has not yet been put into effect, the separate anti-terrorism law has already been used to seize property, including from people who had no hand in violence.
Theresa May Faces Confidence Vote
British prime minister, Theresa May faces a confidence vote in her leadership by MPs in her own conservative party, after chaos began to roil her European union exit deal.
So much now plagues the deal that has opened up the prospect of a messy no-deal Brexit or a referendum that could reverse Brexit. Britain is due to exit on March the twenty-ninth next year.
Graham Brady, the chairman of the party’s so-called 1922 committee, said the threshold of 15 percent of the parliamentary conservative party seeking a confidence vote had been reached. A vote will be taken at the house of Commons later this evening.
May could lose her position as prime minister if a hundred fifty-eight of her three hundred fifteen MPs vote against her, but a mutiny could also help sustain her through the crisis.
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- Theresa May Faces Confidence Vote December 12, 2018
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