After a magnitude 7.5 earthquake, a tsunami several metres high swept over part of the western coast of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on the 28th of September. In Palu, some suburbs were swallowed up due to the liquefaction of the ground. The disaster claimed well over 2,000 lives, injured countless people and caused immense material damage.
Switzerland responded immediately, dispatching on Monday evening a Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) team to the disaster area. Their destination was Palu, the worst hit city.
Operational Control Group meeting
Their task is to find out what support is most urgently needed around the city of Palu. At the same time the Swiss team supports the Indonesian authorities with carrying out structural analysis of affected buildings, assessing the quality of drinking water (using mobile laboratories) and commencing initial humanitarian measures.
Shelter, drinking water and sanitation
Swiss Humanitarian Aid focused first on setting up three camps located between Palu and Donggala. All of the villages along this coast were destroyed by the tsunami.
Swiss experts installed a total of 300 family tents in the three camps, all equipped with latrines and 5,000-litre drinking water reservoirs. The Swiss team also provided assistance with drinking water and community shelters in three other camps in remote areas.
Swiss Humanitarian Aid also supported the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI) in the setting up of a point to collect and treat water for 2,000 people per day in Palu. The Swiss experts provided and trained PMI staff in the use of water treatment devices.
Assistance even in remote places
Members of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit took a helicopter flight to reach villages up in the mountains which had received no assistance.
Cut off from the rest of the world, 500 villagers received tarpaulins to protect themselves from the coming monsoon rains.
30 tonnes of relief items
More than 30 tonnes of relief supplies have been sent to Palu for the Indonesian Red Cross. The donation included 40 multiple-use tents, 800 tarpaulins, 600 mosquito nets, 300 cooking kits, 15 water treatment devices, well cleaning kits and other equipment.
End of operation
Switzerland’s emergency operation in Indonesia has lasted more than three weeks. In total, Switzerland allocated over CHF 2.5 million for these humanitarian activities. The Swiss operation concluded with the visit of Manuel Bessler, head of Swiss Humanitarian Aid, on 22nd and 23rd October. He met with displaced people, the authorities and aid organisations.
Interview with Manuel Bessler