Lack Of Equipment Has Slowed Recovery Efforts From Earthquake In Indonesia

Oct 5, 2018
Originally published on October 5, 2018 11:04 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Thousands of Indonesians are living in tents or in shelters a week after a devastating earthquake and tsunami. More than 1,400 people died. As NPR's Julie McCarthy reports, a lack of heavy equipment has slowed the recovery of bodies from the mud and debris.

(SOUNDBITE OF CREAKING)

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Aco, is someone pulling the roof down, or is it falling down around us?

ACO CACO HAERROLLAH: (Speaking Bahasa).

MCCARTHY: Aco Caco Haerrollah sits inside the ruins of a small seaside establishment and says the creaking is not the sound of the roof being repaired but coming apart. Everything has come apart here in the wake of double calamity that struck without warning last Friday night.

HAERROLLAH: (Speaking Bahasa).

MCCARTHY: "I felt panic," Aco says. "I couldn't think clearly. We couldn't help anyone but ourselves." Aco turned and saw a 20-foot wall of water and ran. "I didn't even think to save my father," he says. Aco's father died praying in his home 50 yards from the windswept shell where I met Aco, an elected neighborhood advisory leader who lived here with some 200 families. Their strip of beach is now a landscape of splintered wood and debris.

Corrugated metal up to your knees and huge slabs of concrete - and you see clothing is strewn around.

The smell of dead bodies rises around us. Volunteer search and rescue teams poke through the devastation, looking for victims of the tsunami. First Lieutenant Arif Simamora says he and other Marines assist when the volunteers locate a body.

ARIF SIMAMORA: (Speaking Bahasa).

MCCARTHY: Speaking through an interpreter, Simamora says without the assistance of sniffer dogs, he and his team walk the beach and smell.

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: We smell. We smell because we already know how to differentiate the smell of an animal's and human bodies. And if we search for the smell and then we found bodies, we will retrieve here.

MCCARTHY: Did you discover anything here today - this point, this spot?

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: (Speaking Bahasa).

SIMAMORA: (Speaking Bahasa).

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: Possible two there and another two there.

SIMAMORA: (Speaking Bahasa).

MCCARTHY: But in this instance, if they dug with their bare hands, they'd mutilate the newly discovered bodies, he says, and concedes they need heavy equipment. Residents from this area, blanketed in hulks of flattened homes, are dismayed at these modest operations to salvage the dead.

As one resident put it, you need heavy equipment to really discover the death toll here. And there just hasn't been any.

It's a scene repeated across Palu.

(SOUNDBITE OF CREAKING)

MCCARTHY: Aco Caco Haerrollah says the lack of earthmovers is just one of many shortages. He and thousands like him have no drinking water one week after disaster struck. He roams around town when he hears there's a food bank where he can eat. The beach that provided a livelihood to owners of many small cafes like himself is gone. This father of two, Aco has lost everything, including faith that the government will help them in their hour of need.

HAERROLLAH: (Speaking Bahasa).

MCCARTHY: "We feel slightly cheated," he says. "Up until today, we've had no help from the government." As for grieving, Aco says, "I've let go what happened to my father because I know God loves him. But I will get up again and start from zero." Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Palu, Indonesia.

(SOUNDBITE OF PAUL KALKBRENNER SONG, "FEED YOUR HEAD") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.