Fearful Indonesia quake victims face fresh battle for survival

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PALU, Indonesia, Sept 29, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Terrified residents in the
quake-struck Indonesian city of Palu fashioned makeshift bamboo shelters or
slept out on dusty playing fields Saturday fearing powerful aftershockswould
topple damaged homes and bring yet more carnage and suffering.

Thirty-five-year-old mum Risa Kusuma — her world upended Friday by the
one-two punch of a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and a tsunami that climbed up to
1.5 metres in height — camped in her back garden and looked to God for some
semblance of protection.

“Please pray for us,” she told AFP. “Hopefully, Allah will protect me, my
children, my husband, family and the people of Palu.”

As rescue workers struggled to reach remote areas and the vast machinery
of the international recovery effort geared up, the challenges for Kusuma and
other residents of this small seaside city of around 350,000, were basic and
immediate: Food. Water. Shelter.

Large queues formed as citizens waited in the tropical heat for life-
giving water, and the basic sustenance of instant noodles.

Essential supplies have been constricted by a tsunami that mowed down
shops, overturned cars and ripped up parts of a coastal road in central
Sulawesi.

The wave pushed a tangled mess of corrugated steel roofing, timber, rubble
and flotsam some 50 metres inland. Elsewhere it uprooted trees and downed
powerlines.

Some 24 hours after the quake hit, the city centre was a mix of collapsed
and damaged buildings, shuttered shops and cracked roads.

On a main thoroughfare, crowds of residents-turned-looters used lengths of
garden hose to siphon petrol from underground tanks at an abandoned petrol
station.

Anser Bachmid, a 39-year-old father of one, told AFP the need was acute.
“The public here need aid — food, drink, clean water,” he said.

“We don’t know what to eat for dinner today,” he said, in a morbid echo of
a discussion held every evening by families the world over.

As night fell, the city was plunged into enveloping darkness, because of a
city-wide power outage which has also widely affected cellphone reception.

Just outside the city, families huddled under makeshift shelters built out
of salvaged bamboo, tree branches and tarpaulins. Some cooked on open fires
and hundreds took up residence on a football field.

But many in Palu have decided to leave. A steady crowd of trucks, cars and
motorcycles — weighed down with belongings — could be seen streaming out of
the city.

Routes in and out of the city have fallen victim to landslides triggered
by the quake, reducing roads in some parts to single lanes barely wide enough
for a car to pass.

For many residents trapped in this battle for survival, there is the added
pain of scouring the rubble, the detritus and the hospitals for loved ones.

“At the moment we still don’t know how many victims are still left under
the rubble,” said Bachmid.

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