More than 70,000 people remain homeless after a massive 7.5 magnitude earthquake and an ensuing tsunami ravaged parts of Indonesia's Sulawesi island.
UNITED NATIONS – Thousands of civilians across the Indonesian island of Sulawesi remain in need of humanitarian aid some six days after an earthquake and tsunami ravaged the area and inflicted widespread damage.
The death toll from the disaster currently stands at 1,581, and officials caution that’s still a preliminary figure.
“That is a number that we fear will rise because there are still areas that have not been fully assessed and there is a rubble to go through.”
Jens Laerke is a spokesperson for the U.N.’s humanitarian office in Geneva, says survivors of last Friday’s disaster are also in peril – including hundreds of people injured who have still yet to receive medical attention.
“We have at least 70,000 people who have been rendered homeless. They have been displaced, their houses have been damaged or destroyed and many of them, thousands of them, are sleeping in the open. They need food to eat, they need clean drinking water, and also, critically, they need psycho-social support, because many of them are very very traumatized.”
The trauma associated with natural disasters can’t be ignored. In just the last decade, researchers studying those affected by earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan and Southeast Asia have found a widespread incidence of PTSD and depression among survivors.
But to provide any assistance, aid workers will need to reach affected areas. A small airport in the heavily-affected town of Palu reopened several days ago, enabling small planes filled with aid workers or supplies to land. Even then, another journey waits.
“The roads have been damaged, we’ve seen a lot of mud and landslides, which have made inland transport extremely challenge. So getting it the last miles out to the people that need it is a massive problem at the moment.”