VOA Special English
Power Returns to Indonesian City but Condition of Thousands Unknown


    Electric power stations were operating again and some businesses reopened in the Indonesian city of Palu on Thursday. However, the condition of thousands of people in nearby communities was unknown nearly a week after an earthquake and tsunami hit the area.

    A total of 370,000 people live in Palu, on the island of Sulawesi. The city has been the center of aid efforts after a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck on September 28. A short time later, large waves covered parts of Sulawesi’s west coast.

    International help in searching for survivors has been improving. But damaged roads, landslides and poor communications have cut off some areas from the rest of Indonesia. This has left many survivors in need of aid that has only just begun to arrive.

    By Thursday, the number of people killed was officially listed at 1,424, but it is expected to rise. In Palu itself, most of the dead have been counted. But Indonesian officials are just beginning to count victims from rural areas.

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

    Palu is about 1,500 kilometers northeast of Jakarta. Parts of the city were close to anarchy earlier this week, with people taking things from stores. But some businesses and banks have now reopened and a mobile phone service is working again.

    Orderly lines formed at fuel stations after the arrival of fuel late Thursday. Traffic lights and televisions came back to life as the power came back on.

    The improvements are helping with the aid effort.

    “We carry whatever we can by car or motorbike within the city wherever we can. But not yet to the most inaccessible places,” Frida Sinta said.

    An Indonesian flag flies over the flattened village of Petopo in Palu, Indonesia's Central Sulawesi
    An Indonesian flag flies over the flattened village of Petopo in Palu, Indonesia's Central Sulawesi

    About 1.4 million people live in the badly affected areas of the disaster zone. Rescue workers are pushing into nearby communities, where people said they have been searching for food.

    A Red Cross helicopter landed near the town of Donggala, northwest of Palu, to bring in bread and other food, a Reuters photographer said. The news agency worker added that survivors quickly took everything.

    An Indonesian government spokesman told reporters the main roads to the south, west and east of Palu had been opened.

    But there has been little information about conditions on the road to the north, along the coast towards the epicenter of the earthquake.

    Abdul Haris of the national search and rescue agency said there was no information about the small settlements along the north road.

    While the power is back in Palu, it will take much longer for peoples’ lives to return to normal.

    Asril Abdul Hamid, a business owner, was looking at the wreckage of his home. It was destroyed by water.

    He found a few family pictures.

    “(My) family is safe, thank God, but my cousin was killed,” he told Reuters. He said that his family had got food and water in the past few days.

    In 2004, an earthquake off the island of Sumatra caused a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 people in 13 countries. In Indonesia, more than 120,000 people were killed.

    I’m Susan Shand.

    The Reuters news agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted the report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    tsunami – n. a very high, large wave in the ocean that is usually caused by an earthquake under the sea and that can cause great destruction when it reaches land

    challenge – n. a difficult task or problem

    inaccessible adj. an area that cannot be reached

    cousin – n. the child or an aunt or uncle

    epicentern. the part of the ground directly above the center of an earthquake

    mobileadj. having the ability to be moved; changeable in appearance or purpose

    magnitude n. a number that shows the power of an earthquake