After floods, Indonesian leader visits quake zone

MAMUJU, INDONESIA (AP) — Relief workers worked to clear up rubble of collapsed buildings yesterday on an Indonesian island where a deadly earthquake left thousands of people homeless.

The 6.2 magnitude earthquake last Friday that killed at least 84 people was one of multiple recent disasters in Indonesia.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited a flood-hit area on Borneo island on Monday and visited the quake-hit areas of West Sulawesi province yesterday to reassure people the government’s response is reaching those struggling after the quake.

The National Search and Rescue Agency counted at least 30,000 survivors who have moved to shelters in the hard-hit city of Mamuju and its neighbouring district of Majene in West Sulawesi, as the government and aid agencies pooled efforts to meet the survival needs of shaken communities.

Four days after the disaster, the streets of the provincial capital Mamuju were still covered in debris and most people have slept outdoors, fearful their homes would crumble if strong aftershocks come.

President Joko Widodo talks to an official as he inspects an earthquake-damaged government building, in Mamuju, West Sulawesi, Indonesia. PHOTO: AP

Yesterday, sniffer dogs were again used in the search for bodies and possible survivors in Mamuju, a city of nearly 300,000 people, strewn with debris from collapsed buildings. The governor’s office building was almost flattened and a shopping mall was reduced to a crumpled hulk.

Before he arrived in Mamuju, Widodo mobilised military and police to support rescue and relief operations.

The president had travelled on Monday to flood-affected areas in South Kalimantan province on Borneo, the island known for rainforests and orangutans where floods since last week have inundated several regions. The floods killed several villagers and forced tens thousands of people to flee their homes. Floods were also reported in many other provinces in the vast archipelago nation.

Widodo said rainfall caused the floods in South Kalimantan, but environmentalists blame deforestation by mining, palm oil and agricultural industries.

The quake and flood disasters follow a deadly landslide in West Java on January 9 that left 40 people buried in tons of mud. On the same day, a Sriwijaya Air jet nosedived into the Java Sea, killing all 62 people on board.

Indonesia also last week began vaccinating health workers with a COVID-19 vaccine in a campaign that aims to immunise two-thirds of the population in the world’s fourth most populous country. It has confirmed more than 917,000 infections and 26,000 deaths from the pandemic, the most in Southeast Asia.