GENEVA - International aid is pouring into the Indonesian island of Sulawesi for tens of thousands of earthquake and tsunami survivors. Three weeks after a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck, the government estimates more than 87,000 people remain homeless and thousands more are living in poor, makeshift settlements.
Aid agencies are racing against time to get relief to survivors before the monsoon season sets in next month. The Sulawesi disaster is estimated to have killed more than 2,000 people, with at least 680 still missing. The government says around 68,000 houses are damaged.
The U.N. refugee agency delivered 435 emergency tents Friday for distribution to families made homeless by the earthquake and tsunami. The agency says that will provide shelter to around 6,500 of the most vulnerable. It says more emergency tents, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and solar lamps will be delivered in the coming weeks.
UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxley says aid workers went to Palu, the epicenter of the quake in central Sulawesi, this past week to coordinate relief activities with local government officials.
Villagers affected by the earthquake wave after an Indonesian military helicopter dropped aid in Lindu village south of Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, Oct. 7, 2018.
"Our staff described the effects of the earthquake and tsunami as beyond imagination and devastating. Communities have seen their houses, schools and hospitals reduced to rubble. Entire villages have been decimated.... Many people have not only lost their homes, but the land on which [they] once stood," said he.
Yaxley says many survivors are too traumatized to face returning to what is left of their homes.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is providing 215 tons of relief items, including tents, tarpaulins, blankets and safe drinking water to the survivors. The Indonesian Red Cross will distribute the aid to 160,000 people affected by the disaster.
World Food Program staff is helping the Indonesian government expedite, manage, store and distribute to the survivors on Sulawesi the massive quantities of aid arriving at the airport of Balikpapan on the neighboring island of Borneo.
Photo Gallery: Earthquake, Tsunami Strike Sulawesi Island, Indonesia