19 October 2018

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Charlie Yaxley – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Earlier this morning, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency delivered 435 emergency tents to Balikpapan, Indonesia, for onward distribution to families made homeless by the recent earthquake and tsunami in Central Sulawesi. A total of 1,305 tents will be delivered within the course of the next few days.

Further aid, including more emergency tents, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and solar lamps, is set to be delivered in the coming weeks.

The tents were handed over to Indonesian authorities in Balikpapan who assisted with delivering the tents to neighbouring Sulawesi Island. There they will be distributed by UNHCR’s partners on the ground, Indonesia Red Cross (PMI/Palang Merah Indonesia) and Yayasan Kemanusiaan Muslim Indonesia (YMKI/ Indonesian Muslim Humanitarian Foundation)

An official assessment from the Indonesia National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) estimates that around 68,000 houses have been damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, while some 80,000 people have become internally displaced as a result. This initial consignment will help to provide much needed shelter to around 6,500 of the most vulnerable affected.

UNHCR applauds the Government of Indonesia and humanitarian workers who have been working tirelessly as first responders in the affected areas over the past three weeks.

Earlier this week, a UNHCR team travelled to Palu in Central Sulawesi, one of the areas most affected by the earthquake and tsunami, to coordinate with local government counterparts and partners, and make advanced preparations.

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.

In Petobo and Balaroa, the twin disasters churned the areas into mud. Many people have not only lost their home, but even the land on which it once stood.

Many of the survivors are heavily distressed, though there remains a strong resilience, with people helping each other where they can and by sharing their stories. One woman said that she felt “lucky” that she had only lost her father, as her husband and son had survived.

Another woman told our staff how she returned to her family home to see what possessions she could salvage but that everything was destroyed, with the exception of one sleeping mat. Others have reported that they feel too traumatized by the earthquake and tsunami to face returning to what’s left of their homes.

Sulawesi was struck by a series of strong earthquakes on 28 September, triggering a tsunami and resulting landslides, which have caused extensive damage. More than 2,000 people are estimated to have lost their lives, while at least 680 people remain unaccounted for.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

In Geneva, Charlie Yaxley, [email protected], +41 795 808 702
In Jakarta, Mitra Suryono, [email protected], +62 811 136 1046

Australia for UNHCR media enquiries, please contact:

Mark Macdonald, Head of Communications, Australia for UNHCR - [email protected]
Wendy Bruere, Media & PR Officer, Australia for UNHCR - [email protected]

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