Earthquake and Tsunami in Sulawesi - Disaster Response Update

Published: 4 October 2018

MAF is providing disaster relief flights to facilitate aid efforts on Sulawesi Island, Indonesia, following a deadly earthquake and tsunami on Sept. 28, 2018.

“MAF is working in partnership with Ethnos360 Aviation and Helivida,” said John Woodberry, MAF’s global director of Disaster Response. “We’ve put together a collaborative team operating two Kodiak airplanes and one helicopter, which gives us the ability to reach the towns that have seen destruction as well as the more remote areas where people are suffering.” 

Wilbert Rietveld gasoline line 04Oct2018

Wilbert Rietveld, Air Crew

According to data released Oct. 3 by the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance,1,407 people died when a 7.4 earthquake shook Sulawesi Island, triggering a tsunami that devastated the city of Palu and areas nearby. More than 65,000 houses have been damaged and 71,000 displaced people are sheltering at 141 evacuation sites.

“Our folks at the site are seeing houses that have crumbled, huge boats stranded on land by the tsunami, and some areas near the shore that have been wiped clean of any structures,” Woodberry said. As aftershocks continue in the area, many people are sleeping outside.

The MAF team arrived in Palu on Tuesday and immediately set to work.

“Some of our first flights were to evacuate school children from Palu back to their homes in the Ampana area,” said Woodberry. “They had been waiting at the hangar for a couple days before we even arrived. They were hungry, so we fed them as well. We’ve also been flying in personnel from other relief agencies that are arriving to help.”

Evacuation Children Ethnos360Aviation compressed

Ethnos 360 Aviation, with MAF's Craig Hollander, Photographer: Craig Hollander

Since a lot of communication infrastructure has been damaged by the quake, MAF has set up a VSAT communication system at the Palu airport. This allows aid agencies to communicate with their teams in other places.

For more than 60 years, MAF has been providing flight services in what is now the country of Indonesia. The organization has 150 staff and 15 airplanes at seven permanent bases across the vast island nation.

“Our personnel know the local language and culture, which is a big help in a disaster situation. It allows us work more effectively, so those who need help get it sooner,” said Woodberry. 

News report and images by MAF USA

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