Jewish groups send aid to Indonesia as death toll tops 400

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has maintained a presence in Indonesia since the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.

By REUTERS
December 25, 2018 12:42
Indonesia Aid

Indonesian navy prepare packages of aid to distribute to victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Palu at Koarmada II port in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia. (photo credit: ANTARA FOTO/DIDIK SUHARTONO/VIA REUTERS)

 
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The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is providing aid to Indonesia in the wake of a tsunami on Saturday that killed at least 429 people, with more victims expected to be found as the search for survivors continues.

The JDC is providing aid, including health services, clean water and critical supplies for survivors and the displaced, through its local partner in the Kalianda and Rajabasa sub-districts of Lampung. The JDC has maintained a presence in Indonesia since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

“As the people of Indonesia face disaster for the third time this year, we mourn the tragic loss of life and work to provide an immediate response to care for those who survived the tsunami,” said JDC CEO David M. Schizer. “Guided by our Jewish values, we will endeavor to alleviate suffering and make the New Year ahead one that is filled with healing and recovery.”

Israel and Indonesia, a Muslim-majority country, do not maintain diplomatic relations and Jakarta has a record of refusing Israeli aid. However, Israel did send aid in October when the Southeast Asian nation was hit by an earthquake which killed more than 1,400 people.

Israel expressed it deepest sympathies to Indonesia following the tsunami.

“Our most profound sympathies to all who are affected by the devastating tsunami in Indonesia, wishing speedy recovery to all the injured and expressing hope for search and rescue efforts,” tweeted Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon.



Indonesian rescuers on Tuesday used drones and sniffer dogs to search for survivors along the devastated west coast of Java.

Thick ash clouds continued to spew from Anak Krakatau (child of Krakatoa), a volcanic island where a crater collapse at high tide on Saturday sent waves smashing into coastal areas on both sides of the Sunda Strait between the islands of Sumatra and Java.

At least 154 people remain missing. More than 1,400 people were injured and thousands of residents had to move to higher ground, with a high-tide warning extended to Wednesday.

Rescuers used heavy machinery, sniffer dogs, and special cameras to detect and dig bodies out of mud and wreckage along a 100-km (60-mile) stretch of Java’s west coast and officials said the search area would be expanded further south.

“There are several locations that we previously thought were not affected,” said Yusuf Latif, spokesman for the national search and rescue agency.

“But now we are reaching more remote areas... and in fact there are many victims there,” he added.

THE VAST archipelago, which sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” has suffered its worst annual death toll from disasters in more than a decade.

Earthquakes flattened parts of the island of Lombok in July and August, and a double quake-and-tsunami killed more than 2,000 people on a remote part of Sulawesi Island in September.

It took just 24 minutes after the landslide for waves to hit land, and there was no early warning for those living on the coast. Authorities have warned of further high waves and advised residents to stay away from the shoreline.

“Since Anak Krakatau has been actively erupting for the past several months, additional tsunamis cannot be excluded,” said Dr. Prof Hermann Fritz of the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States.

Rescue efforts were hampered by heavy rainfall and low visibility. Military and volunteer teams used drones to assess the extent of the damage along the coast.

Food, water, blankets and medical aid are trickling into remote areas via inland roads that are choked with traffic.

Thousands of people are staying in tents and temporary shelters like mosques or schools, with dozens sleeping on the floor and using public facilities. Many remain traumatized by the disaster.

“We can’t sleep at night – and if we get to sleep a car goes past with sirens and we wake up again, on edge,” said Enah, a 29-year-old woman who managed to survive with her family.

Atmadja Suhara, a local official in the city of Labuan, said he was helping to care for 4,000 refugees, many of whom had been left homeless.

“Everybody is still in a state of panic,” he said. “We often have disasters, but not as bad as this.”

“God willing,” he said, “we will rebuild.”

DESTRUCTION WAS visible along much of the coastline where waves of up to two meters high crushed vehicles, felled trees and lifted chunks of metal, wooden beams and household items, depositing them on roads and rice fields.

Out in the strait, Anak Krakatau was still erupting and authorities imposed a two-km. exclusion zone around it.

The meteorology agency said that an area of about 64 hectares (222 acres) – about 90 soccer fields – of the volcanic island had collapsed into the sea.

In 1883, the volcano, then known as Krakatoa, erupted in one of the biggest blasts in recorded history, killing more than 36,000 people in a series of tsunamis, and lowering the global surface temperature by one degree Celsius with its ash. Anak Krakatau is the island that emerged from the area in 1927, and has been growing ever since.

President Joko Widodo, who is running for reelection in April, told disaster agencies to install early warning systems, but experts said that unlike tsunamis caused by earthquakes, little could have been done in time to alert people that waves were coming.

The timing of the disaster over the Christmas season evoked memories of the Indian Ocean tsunami triggered by an earthquake on December 26, 2004, which killed 226,000 people in 14 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

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