International aid is beginning to arrive in Indonesia six days after a devastating earthquake struck the island nation. According to a report from Agence France Presse (AFP), much-needed supplies are finally arriving after several delays prevented the aid from reaching survivors.
The earthquake, which also caused tsunami waves that struck the country, measured in at 7.5 on the Richter scale. The casualty estimate for the combined disaster is 1,424 dead and more than 2,500 injured. According to AFP, rescuers, including search and rescue (SAR) canines are still trying to locate survivors under the rubble of collapsed buildings. However, the hope of additional survivors is dwindling fast.
As SAR operations continue, much-needed aid is finally arriving via aircraft to the areas hardest hit, such as the coastal city of Palu. While logistical hurdles impeded the arrival of survival supplies, Indonesia’s government was also initially hesitant to accept foreign assistance. According to AFP, Indonesian President Joko Widodo finally called for outside help once the extent of the damage was calculated.
“The government of Indonesia is experienced and well-equipped in managing natural disasters, but sometimes, as with all other countries, outside help is also needed,” said United Nations aid chief Mark Lowcock. The U.N. aid chief also announced a $15 million aid package to the Indonesian government to assist with recovery operations.
In the meantime, several Indonesian civilians have resorted to looting to secure much-needed supplies like food and clean water. Local police at first tolerated a small amount of looting on an “as needed” basis, but once the frequency of the looting picked up, law enforcement officers began to crack down on offenders. According to The Independent, Indonesian military personnel have been “ordered to shoot looters” that are caught trying to steal from aid depots.
Survivors who have gone days without food or fresh water have also been raiding stores and farms looking for any kind of relief. One man told reporters from Reuters that he was surviving on coconuts.
“It’s a zombie town. Everything’s destroyed. Nothing’s left,” said Johnny Lim, a restaurateur in Donggala.
While the human suffering in the country cannot be fully quantified, the disaster has also done severe damage to the country’s economy. According to a report from Reuters, officials from Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency fear that damages will exceed $790 million.
Shares in Indonesia slumped to a “one-month low,” dragging many other stock markets in Southeast Asia down with them. According to Reuters, Philippine shares tumbled to a three-month low, and Bank Central Asia fell by 1.4 percent on Thursday. Shares in Singapore were also down by more than 1 percent.
In the wake of the Indonesian catastrophe, the country is considering revamping its disaster financing plans. According to Reuters, officials from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency are considering issuing “catastrophe bonds,” which could only be utilized during a disaster. The country will also boost its insurance coverage of “state assets.”
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