NUSA DUA — U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said Saturday that he was sticking with plans to attend a government-sponsored investment conference in Saudi Arabia this month despite the uproar over the disappearance of a prominent Saudi journalist, although he said he would reconsider that decision “if more information comes out.” Mnuchin said he was concerned about the fate of Saudi-born journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, last week and has not been seen since. Turkish investigators say Khashoggi, a well-connected Washington Post columnist who had become a critic of the powerful Saudi crown prince, was killed and his body dismembered by an elite Saudi security team. Saudi officials say Khashoggi left the consulate freely, but have not substantiated their claim.
NUSA DUA — Hundreds of mostly Indonesian aid workers continued to distribute relief items to the nearly 88,000 people left homeless by the disaster, after days of slow access to the region, which is a near-three-hour flight from Jakarta. The impact of the 7.5 quake cracked roads and left rocks and debris blocking routes outside Palu to rural areas and smaller towns. By midweek, many of the roads to remote regions were passable, but mostly still to smaller trucks and cars, said Irwan Firdaus, an aid worker with Oxfam in Indonesia. The main routes across Sulawesi to Palu had been opened up to larger relief convoys. “We have been seeing donations come in from other areas of the island,” said Dini Widiastuti of Yayasan Plan International, another aid organization.
JAKARTA — Dini Widiastuti, Executive Director of Yayasan Plan International Indonesia, a local NGO affiliated with Plan International, described a challenging conditions for getting relief items such as tents to survivors, many of who are sleeping outdoors. “Warehousing, storage, channels of transportation, these are all difficult,” she said, speaking by telephone. There are three main avenues for assistance to the affected region, home to around 1.5 million people: Balikpapan, a city on the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo, or Kalimantan, as well as Makassar, the biggest city Sulawesi, from where it can take a day by road, and via the airport in Palu itself. “It is difficult to move aid around, the airport is operating but limited. We can send more by boat, and it is less expensive, but air is faster,” Ms. Dini said. “From Jakarta, it can take 7 days to Makassar by boat.”
JAKARTA — Survivors were leaving the disaster-hit region of Central Sulawesi on Thursday out of frustration with what they said was the slow provision of assistance from the Indonesian government and aid agencies in the aftermath of a magnitude 7.5 earthquake and tsunami. Widely reported shortages of food, water, gasoline and other necessities have led to looting of damaged shops and supermarkets in Palu, the provincial capital of 380,000 residents near the quake’s epicenter. Though a few positive signs were emerging in the shattered city — with access to water restored for some residents — relief remained slow to arrive on damaged roads and ground that had churned into mud. Residents said there isn’t enough food and water for the thousands of injured and 70,000 left homeless. “The last I heard, my brother was picking up my mother and father in Palu to evacuate to another district,” said Imade Boby, a Jakarta resident whose parents and relatives live in Palu. He said the family hoped to travel by boat or by road to an area of Parigi Moutong, north of Palu, that was less affected by the disaster.
JAKARTA — Aid workers described scenes of destruction and desperation Monday in areas of central Sulawesi they reached for the first time since a magnitude 7.5 earthquake and tsunami leveled parts of the Indonesian island, blocked roads and turned solid ground into mud. Just outside the hard-hit town of Palu, the regional capital and hub of the relief effort, volunteers retrieved the bodies of 34 students from a Bible school in the town of Sigi Biromaru, said Aulia Arriani, head of communications at the Indonesian Red Cross. The Red Cross team had “a hard time to evacuate the bodies as they had to walk through mud for one-and-a-half hours,” Aulia said. At least 1,203 people were killed after Friday’s quake, according to an unofficial count by volunteers, nongovernmental groups and hospitals in Palu. The tremor unleashed a tsunami as high as 20 feet crashing into the coastline, destroying roads and bridges, downing cellphone towers and washing away thousands of houses.
JAKARTA — Anisah Firdaus Bandu’s mother called her in tears from her hometown of Palu on Friday evening when a magnitude 7.5 earthquake jolted the island of Sulawesi in eastern Indonesia. Since then, with cellphone towers and other infrastructure damaged by the quake and an ensuing tsunami, Anisah hasn’t heard from her parents, who are among thousands believed unaccounted for in the disaster that has left at least 800 people dead, officials said Sunday. “My mother cried a lot, she tried to pick up my father at his office,” said Anisah, a civil servant in Jakarta, the capital. “I really tried hard to reach them till now but I can’t.” As anxious relatives tried to place phone calls in vain and clamored to board military or relief flights to Palu, a town of some 380,000 people, emergency crews struggled to reach the worst affected areas, including a string of coastal towns that remained cut off by washed-out roads and downed communication lines.
JAKARTA — Indonesian officials said 384 people were killed and many more remained unaccounted for after an earthquake of magnitude 7.5 on Friday evening triggered a sundown tsunami measuring between five and ten feet high that washed over Palu and Donggala, two coastal cities in Sulawesi in the east of the Indonesian archipelago. Earlier on Saturday Sutopo Nugroho, the disaster mitigation agency spokesman, told media in capital Jakarta that the deaths had been tallied from four hospitals in Palu, population c.a 380,000, and that there were likely to be “many [more] victims,” possibly including hundreds of people who were attending a beach festival when the waves hit. Among the dead was Anthonius Gunawan Agung, a young air traffic controller who died after leaping from a damaged airport navigation tower in Palu, after ensuring a commercial flight took off before the disaster hit.
KNOCK — Hundreds of thousands of Catholics gathered under dark rain clouds as Pope Francis said Mass in a Dublin park and stopped briefly to pray at Knock Shrine, a pilgrimage site in the west of Ireland, on the second and final day of his visit to Ireland. Clouds of a different sort were gathering over Francis’s increasingly troubled papacy, however, after a former Holy See ambassador to the U.S. called on Francis to resign over claims that the pope protected Theodore McCarrick, who was forced to resign as cardinal in July after accusations of sex abuse crimes. Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the former Papal Nuncio in Washington, D.C., sent a statement to several Catholic newspapers overnight, in which he claimed Francis “continued to cover” for the disgraced McCarrick, who, Vigano said, was sanctioned by Benedict XVI, Francis’s immediate predecessor as pope.
DUBLIN — Pope Francis on Saturday vowed to adopt “stringent” measures to rid a crisis-convulsed Catholic Church of the “pain and shame” caused by decades of sexual abuse and its tolerance by clerical authorities. Francis traveled to Ireland, once a bastion of Catholic belief, but where religious practice that has been eroded by years of church scandal that has fed a process of secularization similar to preceding variants elsewhere in Europe. He met privately for an hour and a half with eight survivors, the Vatican said, without providing details. Two of the participants in the meeting later said the pontiff equated the scandal and cover-up with excrement.
KNOCK — When Pope Francis lands in Dublin on Saturday morning, he will encounter a land much changed from the one that gave predecessor John Paul II a euphoric welcome nearly four decades ago. “Devotion was at its peak, there were around 450,000 people here in Knock to see the pope,” said Bernard Byrne, 74, sitting inside his souvenir shop next to the parish church in Knock, a village in the west of Ireland. Behind him loomed statues of the Virgin Mary and framed photos of Francis, who will visit the Catholic pilgrimage site on Sunday, emulating John Paul II.