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Residents fume in decimated Indonesian city as aid lags

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A man makes his way through the rubble of houses ruined by Friday’s earthquake in Balaroa neighborhood in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. Desperation was visible everywhere Tuesday among victims receiving little aid in areas heavily damaged by a massive earthquake and tsunami, four days after the disaster devastated parts of Indonesia’s central Sulawesi island. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

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PALU, Indonesia — Home to hundreds of families, the Balaroa neighborhood of Indonesia’s Palu city was once a patchwork of asphalted streets and tidy houses dominated by a golden domed mosque. Now it looks as if it was picked up and thrown back to earth with incomprehensible force.


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Four days after a powerful earthquake and tsunami hit Palu, the devastated community of Balaroa has received no government help and anger is simmering among its residents.



A handful of disaster personnel arrived at the neighborhood Tuesday morning to survey the damage. A lone backhoe began clearing a path into the jumble of twisted buildings. An official visiting from another part of Sulawesi island said it had been “blended.”

What were once streets looked like rolling hills. Cars sat meters (yards) above the ground, perched on eruptions of asphalt and concrete. Other vehicles stood upright, half buried. Photos, books, clothing and other belongings were strewn everywhere. Surreally, surrounding neighborhoods were largely intact.

Residents said their shattered houses had moved by tens of meters. Workers labored under a broiling sun with sledgehammers and shovels to break up rubble covering victims. In another corner of the neighborhood, a religious group said it had recovered 29 bodies in the past three days.

Sa’Adon Lawira, cradling a kitten whose cries had led him to his buried child, was angry that search and rescue efforts in the days since Friday’s magnitude 7.5 quake and tsunami had focused on places such as a hotel where tourists were staying.

Residents crowded around a team of Associated Press reporters, loudly voicing their complaints. Some had heard cries for help rising from beneath the rubble for two days. Now there was silence. There’d been nothing from the government, they said — no food, no water, no medical assistance.


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