Turkey first to reach Indonesian quake/tsunami victims

By Sorwar Alam

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey is the first country in the world to respond a plea from the Indonesian government to provide humanitarian and emergency support to the quake-hit island of Sulawesi.

In a Monday interview, Dandy Koswaraputra, the head of Anadolu Agency’s Indonesian Service based in the capital Jakarta, said that the Turkish Red Crescent and Istanbul-based Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) were the first responders to the victims of Friday’s quake and resulting tsunami.

The death toll from the 7.7-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on the island of Sulawesi has risen to 1,203, the country's disaster management agency said on Sunday.

The IHH said in a statement that the group sent a five-person team as soon as the devastating earthquake struck and also launched a fundraising campaign for the quake victims.

The Turkish Red Crescent also sent two specialized personnel to the region who started to work with the Indonesian Red Cross right away. The Turkish agency will appeal to Turkish nationals to help the Indonesian victims.

Koswaraputra said the toll of casualties and damage could rise further as “some of the affected areas have not been reached yet by rescue teams due to infrastructure and communication concerns.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited Palu, Sulawesi’s capital, one of the cities hardest hit, to inspect the extent of the disaster and ongoing relief efforts. Widodo asked military and police commanders to deploy troops to help rescue teams and to secure everything there.

-Historic tragedy

Quake-hit areas have reported some looting of basic needs from small markets due to the lack of security and food, according to Koswaraputra.

“About 16,000 people are living in shelters without food, water, or sanitary supplies,” he said.

Prison breaks are also being reported in the region. “As many as 1,425 prisoners fled jail after burning down their detention buildings,” said the Anadolu Agency’s Indonesia bureau chief.

The disaster in Central Sulawesi could be Indonesia’s second-largest tragedy, following the 2004 Aceh tsunami that killed more than 170,000 people, said Koswaraputra.

He urged the Jakarta government to declare a state of emergency in the quake-hit areas and seek more international help to deal with the situation.

“What the survivors need now are water, food, clothes, sanitary supplies, tents, medicine, doctors, and security,” he said.

Koswaraputra said despite the poor infrastructure and communication woes, Anadolu Agency is providing its subscribers and readers with the latest quake updates with news stories, pictures, and videos from ground zero of the disaster.

A team of Anadolu Agency journalists, cameramen, and photographers have already reached the scene to cover the disaster and aid efforts.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country is ready to provide all kind of support to Indonesia.

“Turkey is prepared to do everything in its power to help Indonesia heal its wounds,” Erdogan said Sunday on Twitter.