Indonesian Red Cross deploys emergency teams to support search and rescue and relief efforts following Aceh earthquake

Published: 8 December 2016 12:29 CET

On 7 Dec 2016, at 05:00 am local time, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake rocked Pidie Jaya District in Indonesia’s Aceh province. The earthquake struck off the coast of northern Sumatra at a depth of 10km and caused extensive damage to hundreds of buildings. According to the Aceh Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBA) 102 people were killed and more than 600 injured. It is expected that the number of casualties will rise as search and rescue efforts in the area continue.


Almost 80 per cent of the sub-districts of Pidie Jaya were affected by the earthquake and the authorities have declared a provincial level state of calamity to be applied for 14 days. Hundreds of homes and local shops were damaged together with public facilities such as schools, mosques and the main Pidie Jaya referral Hospital.


Search and rescue efforts are continuing involving multi-agency teams including personnel from the Indonesian Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia - PMI), the National Search and Rescue Agency and the Police and Armed Forces.


The Indonesian Red Cross has mobilized its network of volunteers, many of whom are members of the affected communities – to support search, rescue and body retrieval efforts. Emergency response team members (ERT) have been deployed to deliver relief assistance and undertake rapid needs assessments. Relief supplies, including blankets, personal hygiene items and tarpaulins for 1,000 families have been dispatched from the Red Cross warehouses in Aceh, Banten and Padang. Water tanks and purification equipment have also been deployed.


The National Society has set up a main command post in the Red Cross office in Pidie Jaya Office and a field command post in the Ulee Glee sub-district. Three ambulances with medical crews have been mobilized.


“When the earthquake struck we evacuated wounded people to the hospital in Pidie Jaya, but by 11:00 am the hospital could no longer cope with the number of patients coming in and we took the wounded to hospitals in Sigli and Bireun District,” said Rudianto Sunarto, Head of the Indonesian Red Cross office provincial office in Aceh.


The Indonesian Red Cross also has plans in place to mobilize specialist medical staff to reinforce government medical teams working in local hospitals in Sigli and Pidie.


Some 7,500 people have been displaced from their homes and are now staying in eight temporary sites. Red Cross teams distributed water to the sites today and will begin a mobile clinic service tomorrow. Due to aftershocks, many people are fearful of returning to their homes.


“Temporary shelters are needed because people prefer to stay near their houses,” said Arifin. M. Hadi, Head of the Indonesian Red Cross Disaster Management Division. As well as supporting search and rescue efforts and delivering aid evacuation and delivering aid, the Red Cross will also be providing healthcare services and psychosocial support to help people recover from the trauma of their experience.


The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is providing technical support and coordination assistance to the Indonesian Red Cross and has deployed staff members from its Jakarta office to support the operation in Aceh. The IFRC will also release funds from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF).