Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Looting targeted as toll tops 1,200



Looting targeted as toll tops 1,200

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Quake survivors scuffle to get live chickens being distributed from a police truck. JEWEL SAMAD/AFP

Looting targeted as toll tops 1,200

More than 1,200 people are now known to have died in the quake-tsunami that smashed into Sulawesi, Indonesia said on Tuesday, as police pledged to clamp down on looters taking advantage of the chaos.

There were reports of officers firing warning shots and tear gas to ward off people ransacking shops in Palu, a coastal city ravaged by a 7.5-magnitude quake and the tsunami it spawned.

Almost 200,000 people are in need of urgent help, the UN says, among them tens of thousands of children.

Survivors are battling thirst and hunger, with food and clean water in short supply, and local hospitals are overwhelmed by the number of injured.

Police said on Tuesday that they had previously tolerated desperate survivors taking food and water from closed shops, but had now arrested dozens of people for stealing computers and cash.

“On the first and second day clearly no shops were open. People were hungry. There were people in dire need. That’s not a problem,” said deputy national police chief Ari Dono Sukmanto.

“But after day two, the food supply started to come in [and] it only needed to be distributed. We are now re-enforcing the law.

“There are ATMs. They are open. If people steal, we catch and investigate,” he said.

Despite the official assurances, desperation was evident on the streets of Palu, where survivors clambered through wreckage hunting for anything that was salvageable.

Others crowded around daisy-chained power strips at the few buildings that still have electricity, or queued for water, cash or petrol being brought in via armed police convoy.

“The government, the president have come here, but what we really need is food and water,” Burhanuddin Aid Masse, 48, told AFP.

Queues to get a few litres of petrol lasted more than 24 hours in some places.

Sanitation is also a growing problem. “People everywhere want to go to the toilet but there’s no toilet. So we do it along the road at night,” said 50-year-old Armawati Yarmin.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by a lack of heavy machinery, severed transport links, the scale of the damage, and the Indonesian government’s initial reluctance to accept foreign help.

Along the road to Donggala – a large town close to the epicentre of the quake – there were more scenes of destruction. The town itself appeared relatively unscathed, but in the worst affected areas it was difficult to find a single vertical surface.

Donggala resident Farid, 48, pleaded for help: “Don’t centre all the aid on Palu,” he said. “We in Donggala have nothing.”

As if to remind the world of the tectonic fragility of Indonesia, a series of quakes hit the island of Sumba on Tuesday, albeit hundreds of kilometres from Palu.

The official death toll from the tragedy in central Sulawesi stood at 1,234, according to the government.

The Indonesian military is leading the rescue effort, but following a reluctant acceptance of help by President Joko Widodo, international NGOs also have teams on the ground in Palu.

Among the dead are dozens of students whose lifeless bodies were pulled from their landslide-swamped church in Sulawesi.

“A total of 34 bodies were found by the team,” Indonesia Red Cross spokeswoman Aulia Arriani said after the grim discovery, adding that 86 students had initially been reported missing from a Bible camp at the Jonooge Church Training Centre.

Arriani said rescuers faced an arduous trek to reach the mudslide and retrieve the victims.

“The most challenging problem is travelling in the mud as much as 1.5 hours by foot while carrying the bodies to an ambulance,” she said.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation but there are small pockets of religious minorities, including Christians, across the archipelago of 260 million people.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Monday warned there were 191,000 people in urgent need of help after the quake-tsunami, among them 46,000 children and 14,000 elderly – many in areas that aren’t the focus of government recovery efforts.

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • SBI LY HOUR Bank Launches Cross Border Money Transfer Service between Cambodia and Vietnam on RippleNet, utilizing DLT

    SBI LY HOUR Bank Plc and Hanoi-based Tien Phong Commercial Joint Stock Bank (TPBank) on Friday launched the first Cambodia-Vietnam money transfer service in real currency via RippleNet, provided by SBI Ripple Asia Co Ltd to provide safe, fast and convenient services. SBI LY HOUR

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a

  • Cambodia ready to exit LDC status

    Cambodia is well-prepared to minimise economic risks when it graduates from its Least Developed Countries status, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Commerce on May 7. Four LDCs – Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh and Nepal – met at a virtual workshop last week to explore potential

  • Tottenham Hotspur to wear ISF Cambodia logo on jerseys in match against Sheffield United

    Last year, the Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) – an NGO providing education to underprivileged children in Cambodia – made global headlines with its “socially distanced” football initiative. This year, a world-class football club – Tottenham Hotspur FC – will wear special edition jerseys to show their support for ISF

  • Nine US franchises eye Cambodia debut

    Nine famous US franchising companies are looking for business opportunities and expansion into Cambodia to build a footstep for a strong foundation in Southeast Asia. The US embassy in Phnom Penh, in partnership with the US Foreign Commercial Service and with support from the American