Sulawesi, Indonesia (October 02, 2018): More than 1,200 people are now known to have died in the quake-tsunami that smashed into Sulawesi, Indonesia said Tuesday, as police pledged to clamp down on looting by survivors 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 United Nations says, among them 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 Tuesday that they had previously tolerated desperate survivors taking food and water from closed shops, but had now arrested 35 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, it only needed to be distributed. We are now re-enforcing the law.”
“There are ATMs. They are open,” he added. “If people steal, we catch and investigate.”
Despite official assurances, desperation was evident on the streets of Palu, where survivors clambered through wreckage hunting for anything 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 International Committee of the Red Cross said it was working to reunite families who had become separated during the disaster and was providing “forensic services” to those carrying out the grim task of identifying victims.