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Rescue And Aid Efforts Underway In Indonesia After Deadly Tsunami


In Indonesia, rescue efforts continue after last weekend's deadly tsunami. The disaster struck with no warning. It killed more than 400 people. We reached Piva Bell in Jakarta. She is coordinating Mercy Corps' response to the tsunami, though she says she's had trouble reaching her staff in the affected areas because power is down and cellphone service is spotty. I asked her to describe the situation.

PIVA BELL: For example, in Sumur area there are still six villages that still cannot be accessed by anyone - I mean, like, from the government side and even from the humanitarian worker - due to the collapsed bridge. And there's - another one is in Labuan right now. There is a flood, and it's up to two meters. So before, the people who are evacuating, they are the ones affected by the tsunami now. Some people who are not affected by tsunami, their area getting flooded, so there are more and more people affected.

KELLY: And this year has seen disaster after disaster in Indonesia - the earthquakes over the summer, tsunami a few months ago in September and now, of course, this latest one just this past weekend. Does either the government or the humanitarian organizations, such as yours, do you have the resources you need to help people?

BELL: Yeah, so we still have resources, I mean, to deploy us, but we still need resources to help us to do more with the community.

KELLY: What's the most urgent need?

BELL: So the most urgent need now is food and water and also for shelter, such as tents, blanket, mattress and also the medicine and also the cooking tools, such as pan and others like the place to storage their waters.

KELLY: Yeah. I mean, are there any lessons learned? Is there any positive side, if I can say it that way? Just - Indonesia has gotten a lot of experience in responding to disasters. Is the response more efficient as they keep occurring?

BELL: Yeah, so the positive side from this, it's the thing that we've been discussing today in the meeting with the government, that we realize that, like, saving life is more important than thinking about all the wealth that we have. Now we can see that many people just leaving behind their cars, their motor bikes, their houses - just ran for their lives up in the mountain. Now people are more thinking on each other. And another one is also the reflections coming from the humanitarian worker that we have to be always ready for whatever the possibility of disaster. And what we have now, it's new for us because it's a silent tsunami. It's something that we don't expect to happen.

KELLY: No warning for this one, yeah.

BELL: No warning. And also - it's also a good reflection that we need to improve our tsunami warning system and also to - if maybe people had more knowledge on how to identify the risk of the silent tsunami because we have not only an Krakatoa volcano but we also have more...

KELLY: The Krakatoa volcano.

BELL: Yeah, we have more volcano in Indonesia, and there is the possibility of unexpected disaster in the future that we have to get ready of.

KELLY: Piva Bell joining us via Skype from Jakarta, where she is coordinating Mercy Corps' response to the tsunami. Thanks so much.

BELL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.