The Challenges Of Responding To Tsunami And Earthquake In Indonesia | WBEZ
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The Challenges Of Responding To Tsunami And Earthquake In Indonesia


We begin this hour in Indonesia, where the death toll from a powerful earthquake and tsunami has surged, killing hundreds. The destruction is still being assessed since Friday's disasters, and rescues are underway. There is, though, immense damage and destruction. Joining us from Jakarta via Skype is Associated Press reporter Margie Mason. Welcome to the program.

MARGIE MASON: Hi. Thanks for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Margie, can you describe the scene in the affected areas?

MASON: Well, the main city of Palu is really the only place where we have a really clear idea of the destruction. A lot of the outlying areas - the roads are impassable. The power is down. There's no phone service. So it's difficult to even know how bad it is outside. But in Palu, most of the dead - that's now up to more than 830, as of today - are concentrated there so far. And there's a hotel that's collapsed with at least 50 people believed to be trapped. Rescue teams are there. They're still trying to find people, but it's quite difficult to get heavy machinery in. The logistics are just a nightmare because the airport is damaged. And many people just simply cannot get where they need to go.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I saw some video of the tsunami coming in. And it was incredibly dramatic with this just wall of water sweeping in over the area. Can you help us understand the scale of Friday's events? I mean, how big is the area that's been affected?

MASON: Well, the main town, Palu - that's an area of about 380,000 people. And if you look at this area on a map, it's kind of - there's a bay that's kind of a long, narrow finger that's running right into the city. And the fault line runs right there, as well. And so what scientists have told me that has kind of magnified the tsunami - what's happened is this wall of water was racing forward. And as it was moving closer to the bay, it kind of needed to squeeze a bit into this bay. And in doing so, that increased the height of the waves. And so the time it actually reached Palu, it was up to 20 feet in some places. And you saw the video of people, you know, from a parking structure watching as the wave came in. And you also saw in some of the videos, on the street below, people that were completely unaware that this was happening. You could see the wave rushing forward. The motorbikes and the cars were driving. People were walking, having no idea that they were about to be swept away by this wall of water.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And just briefly, what is the government saying?

MASON: At this point, they're trying to assess the situation. The president has arrived today. And he's touring the areas. They are working to get aid in. They're bringing in military aircraft. And also, they're trying to get helicopters to some of these outlying areas. But at this point, still a lot is unknown. And I think in the coming days, we're going to learn a lot more about just how bad some of these other outlying areas actually were hit.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Margie Mason with the Associated Press, thank you very much.

MASON: Thank you.

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