As the death toll continues to rise past 1,500 people following the devastating 7.5 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi last Friday, the air cargo industry is responding with aid and personnel that are being sent to the hardest-hit area near the city of Palu and also to a humanitarian relief hub in Balikpapan, on the neighboring island of Borneo, across the Makassar Strait.
Airlink, a nonprofit disaster relief organization that links airlines with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), has teamed up with United Airlines to provide transportation for a team member of hunger relief group World Central Kitchen to Singapore on Wednesday, while the overwhelmed airports in Indonesia struggled to find room for emergency supplies. United is one of four airlines – including Cathay Pacific and Emirates – and six NGO responders, including ADRA International, that have joined Airlink with the relief efforts.
As of today, the 6-meter-high wall of water that inundated Palu and nearly 1,000 villages on Sept. 28 has displaced more than 70,000 people – a figure that, along with the death toll, is expected to keep rising. Airlink is working to coordinate logistics and communicate with its partners to ensure a smooth response. Sulawesi is now under a 14-day state of emergency as Indonesian officials scramble to find any more survivors in the twisted wreckage.
Also today, Deutsche Post DHL Group (DPDHL) deployed two Disaster Response Teams (DRT) to Balikpapan and Palu to provide urgently needed goods, such as technical equipment, water, tents, fuel and food. The DRT group will also provide logistics and distribution support for incoming aid in collaboration with local staff and responding NGOs at local airports.
The situation in Palu “is still dire, with power outages, water shortages and increasing reported incidents of looting,” said Carl Schelfhaut, GoHelp manager for the Asia-Pacific region and leader of both DPDHL teams. “Due to a collapse of the tower at Mutiara SIS Al-Jufrie Airport [PLW], only very small propeller aircraft and military airplanes can land.” Meanwhile, Balikpapan’s Sultan Aji Muhammad Sulaiman Airport [BPN] has been converted into the humanitarian relief hub for the disaster, where sourcing and sorting of incoming relief goods are taking place, Schelfhaut said.
As PLW slowly re-opens to receive goods in Palu, the Indonesia National Armed Forces, along with forces from other countries, such as Australia, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Singapore, are beginning to send C-130 and C-17 cargo aircraft from Balikpapan to Palu, and returning with evacuees.
“Managing relief goods logistics is crucial in the aftermath of natural disasters,” Schelfhaut added. “As a logistics company we have the skills that can save lives — we help ensure that relief goods are processed quickly so that they reach the people affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami as quickly as possible.”
Those who wish to partner with Airlink to assist with providing aid to the people of Indonesia, please visit Airlink’s Palu Tsunami page. For the latest on Airlink’s efforts to help the stricken survivors of the tsunami, please see this video from Wed., Oct. 2: