Gift of Givers team still in Indonesia despite halt to search and rescue efforts

10 October 2018 - 16:06 By Naledi Shange
The Gift of the Givers team will be returning to South Africa on Friday.
The Gift of the Givers team will be returning to South Africa on Friday.
Image: Facebook/Gift of the Givers

The South African Gift of the Givers team which headed to Indonesia in a bid to assist the earthquake-torn nation is still in the country‚ despite being halted from conducting search and rescue efforts.

Founder of the aid organisation Imtiaz Sooliman on Wednesday told TimesLIVE that all rescue teams‚ both local and international‚ had been barred from searching for any more potential survivors in the rubble.

"We were stopped from doing any search and rescue efforts and we were told that the directive came from the military‚" said Sooliman.

"So from Tuesday‚ we started doing other things. We are putting up tents for clinics and helping wherever we can‚" he said.

It was not immediately clear why the military had halted the rescue operations.

Sooliman said his team would be returning to South Africa on Friday.

His team comprised of 27 people - five media personnel and 17 medics and search and rescue team members.

Asked about the situation there‚ Sooliman said they were being well received by the locals and they were pleased to be assisting in whatever manner they could.

Meanwhile‚ the Islamic Relief South Africa group said the death toll stood at 1‚948‚ with almost 11‚000 injured.

The group said 835 people were still missing with around 152 believed to still be buried under the debris. Almost 66‚000 houses were damaged.

Aftershocks continue to rock the area.

"There are reports of violence and looting in the affected areas including a journalist who was physically assaulted and approximately 1‚200 inmates from 3 prisons have escaped in the Palu region due to the tremors‚" said Shanaaz Ebrahim‚ a spokesperson for Islamic Relief South Africa.

Ebrahim said around 200‚000 people were in need of assistance.

"In remote rural areas‚ most people are staying under makeshift tents made from small tarpaulins. There are reports of fever‚ coughing‚ diarrhoea and itchy skin. Moreover‚ there is a lack of personal hygiene items‚ clothes and nutritious food. We have come across families in remote villages who have not eaten food for days‚" she said.

Listing their challenges Ebrahim said there was a fuel shortage‚ electricity was still down and the risk of landslides and mudslides were high in the affected areas

AFP reported on Tuesday that foreign aid workers were told to return home‚ frustrating relief efforts after a quake-tsunami killed more than 2‚000 people.

Foreign aid poured into the ravaged city of Palu‚ where authorities believe 5‚000 people could be missing and 200‚000 survivors desperately need food‚ water and other life-saving supplies.

The earthquake hit Palu‚ in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province‚ on September 28.