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Quake, Tsunami Devastate Indonesian Island Of Sulawesi

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

How can aid reach Indonesian cities struck by an earthquake and washed over by a tsunami? The city of Palu spreads out on the shores of a bay. And the tsunami that washed into that bay could only end up in one place. Iris van Deinse is with the Red Cross. She's in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, and she's on the line.

Welcome to the program.

IRIS VAN DEINSE: Thank you.

INSKEEP: How does the geography of that island of Sulawesi affect the effort to get aid to that city, Palu?

VAN DEINSE: Well, the earthquake and the tsunami had huge effects on the island. Roads are blocked, covered in mud and rubble. So it's very difficult to reach the affected areas or areas where aid workers haven't been yet. For example, we have a field clinic in Sigi. And we haven't been able to reach the center of Sigi with our ambulance, which is necessary. But it's not possible at the moment.

INSKEEP: So you can't even get into some neighborhoods. Now, from the stories that...

VAN DEINSE: Exactly.

INSKEEP: ...You've heard - I'm looking at a map here of the city of Palu that shows areas that are destroyed. Entire neighborhoods along the shore are destroyed, as you would expect. But it does seem, from looking at the map, that perhaps people can walk a few blocks and be in a relatively undamaged area. Is that correct, that some safety is not very far away?

VAN DEINSE: Well, you can say that it's huge. The damage is huge. (Inaudible) course, people are sleeping outside. There are still aftershocks. So people are afraid to go into their houses - if there are still - houses because most of them are collapsed or covered in mud. So people are sleeping outside. And I think, yeah, there's a huge need of help.

INSKEEP: Thank you for reminding us that there are buildings that may not have been washed over by water but may well have been damaged by the earthquake itself. Is there basic law and order, from what you've heard?

VAN DEINSE: Well, from what I've heard - we have teams on the ground. But unfortunately, it's quite difficult to have contact with them as communication lines are still not very good. But we're focusing on search and rescue, medical care for the survivors and providing clean drinking water with water trucks. And from what I've heard, things are going well. But (inaudible)...

INSKEEP: I think...

VAN DEINSE: ...You know, regarding law and order.

INSKEEP: I understand. So it's a little bit hard to say, but at least things are functioning. In the few seconds we have, does Indonesia seem to have been well prepared for a tsunami, having suffered from them before?

(SILENCE)

INSKEEP: I think we've lost the line. We were speaking with Iris van Deinse. She is with the Red Cross in Jakarta, Indonesia, one of the many nonprofit and government agencies trying to get aid to areas affected by an earthquake and tsunami in the last few days. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.