Indonesia earthquake: Soldiers ordered to shoot looters as rescuers struggle to reach devastated towns

‘If there is looting again, we will quickly fire a warning shot and then shoot to immobilise’

Chris Baynes
Thursday 04 October 2018 17:52 BST
Drone footage shows devastation following Indonesia tsunami

Indonesian troops have been ordered to shoot looters as emergency supplies arrive at areas devastated by a deadly earthquake and tsunami.

Desperate survivors raided closed shops for food and water in the aftermath of the disaster, which left more than 1,400 people dead on the island of Sulawesi.

Many others are missing and injured after Friday’s 7.5-magnitude earthquake spawned huge waves which engulfed the west coastal city of Palu.

Many survivors have no access to running water or electricity but, with transport links cut off, much-needed supplies have only begun to trickle into some of the worst hit areas.

Officials initially took a lenient approach to looting but said they were now “re-enforcing the law” as aid arrives.

“If there is looting again, we will quickly fire a warning shot and then shoot to immobilise,” military colonel Ida Dewa Agung Hadisaputra told AFP.

Dozens of people have been arrested for stealing computers and cash, according to police.

“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.”

Electricity has been restored to the stricken city of Palu, home to about 370,000 people, where shops and banks began reopening on Thursday.

However, the fate of many thousands of people in outlying districts remained unknown almost a week on.

While international help for survivors has gathered pace, rescuers are still struggling to reach remote communities cut off by broken roads, landslides and crippled communications.

Some survivors have been forced to scavenge for coconuts, bananas and cassava.

“There are so many challenges with this disaster, it’s never been so bad,” said Frida Sinta, an aid volunteer.

Signs of recovery were evident in Palu on Thursday, as orderly queues formed at petrol stations after the arrival of fuel shipments. A major mobile phone network was back in operation and traffic lights and televisions flickered into life as power returned.

State port operator Pelindo IV said the city’s port, which was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, has reopened.

But thousands of people are sleeping in tents or makeshift shelters after more than 70,000 homes were destroyed.

An estimated 1.5 million people have been affected by the disaster.

More of those 200,000 are in dire need of assistance, according to the United Nations, which has allocated $15m (£11.5m) to support relief efforts.

The confirmed death toll stands at 1,425, but officials have warned that is expected to rise.

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