SA aid team returns from earthquake-ravaged Indonesia

The South African Gift of the Givers team which was deployed to earthquake-torn Indonesia will be heading home on Friday.

A boy being treated at by the Indonesian Navy hospital ship “KRI dr. Soeharso” walks along the dock in the earthquake and tsunami hit Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

“The teams are leaving this evening‚ arriving tomorrow morning. We were the last foreign team left and virtually the only foreign team permitted to work in these last three days‚” said founder of the aid organisation Imtiaz Sooliman.

“So we officially out of Palu… they announced that all foreign USAR teams to leave the country ASAP. (today) #indonesia Good luck dear people‚” said South African search-and-rescue team Riga Rescue in a Twitter post.

Sooliman told TimesLIVE on Wednesday that all rescue teams‚ local and international‚ had been barred from searching for any more potential survivors in the rubble.

“We were stopped from doing any search-and-rescue efforts and we were told that the directive came from the military‚” he said. “So‚ from Tuesday‚ we started doing other things. We are putting up tents for clinics and helping wherever we can‚” he said.

Sooliman said his team‚ which was the biggest foreign-aid team to assist in the disaster‚ had set up a tented village where they treated patients‚ while others made house calls to the injured.

The group also distributed noodles‚ rice and water to the destitute.

The team comprised 27 people – five media personnel and 17 medics and search-and-rescue team members.

Despite being barred from conducting search-and-rescue missions‚ Sooliman was positive about the contribution of his team‚ which arrived in Indonesia on Sunday after an 82-hour journey to reach the disaster zone.

“The mission was a huge success in terms of the two goals that we had planned for: 1 We went to assist people in need. 2 It was a practice run in a real-life situation [as] our last international intervention was in the Nepal earthquake in May 2015‚” Sooliman said. “This prepares you better to save life in the next natural disaster.”

Commenting on the challenges they faced‚ Sooliman said: “The more the challenges‚ the greater our tenacity‚ resilience‚ persistence and experience.”

The earthquake hit Palu‚ in Indonesia’s central Sulawesi province‚ on September 28‚ with AFP reporting that more than 2‚000 bodies had since been recovered. Thousands more are still reported to be missing.

An estimated 80‚000 people were displaced by the disaster‚ with the UN saying 200‚000 people were in dire need of humanitarian assistance in Palu‚ with clean drinking water and medical supplies still in short supply‚ AFP reported.

On Facebook‚ the Riga Rescue page shared the reality: “At the epicenter (sic) of the tsunami. The devastation is just unfathomable‚ the children’s shoes got me emotional… I can’t begin to imagine how afraid they were and how hopeless the moms and dads were when that hit . . . how do you save your family? Many families died – together‚ torn apart‚ not knowing how your wife‚ husband‚ son or daughter is fighting for their life and you as a parent can’t help… the thought of all these scenarios are playing over and over in everyone’s mind.”


By: Naledi Shange – TimesLIVE

Source: TMG Digital.

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