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Korea pledges $1M to Indonesia

Oct 02,2018
The Korean government will provide $1 million in humanitarian assistance to Indonesia after a powerful earthquake and tsunami last week killed hundreds of people in the Southeast Asian country.

The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement Sunday evening that the assistance will help meet urgent humanitarian needs of affected residents and recovery efforts.

A 7.5-magnitude earthquake hit the central island of Sulawesi last Friday, followed by a tsunami with waves up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) high. Over 840 people were declared dead as of Monday, according to Indonesia’s national disaster mitigation agency, also known as the BNPB. The earthquake and tsunami destroyed infrastructure, damaged telecommunications networks and left thousands of people displaced. At least one Korean citizen remains unaccounted for.

The Central Sulawesi administration declared a 14-day state of emergency following the earthquake and tsunami. Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Sunday said his country will be accepting foreign aid for the disaster response and relief. Local authorities have dug a mass grave for burials.

With the number of casualties expected to rise, the Foreign Ministry in Seoul said it will also review sending a Korea Disaster Relief Team to Indonesia after consultations among related agencies here and with the Indonesian government.

Korean President Moon Jae-in extended his sincere condolences “on behalf of the Korean government and its people” to the victims and families of those affected in a statement addressed to President Widodo Sunday. Moon expressed hopes that “the search and rescue activities of missing victims can be carried out smoothly.”

Immediately after the earthquake and tsunami, Korea’s Foreign Ministry launched efforts to confirm the safety of its nationals residing in Indonesia. As of Sunday, it confirmed the safety of four Korean residents of Palu City in Sulawesi province. The ministry received a report from a resident that there are seven additional Korean nationals residing in or visiting the region for business reasons and a consular official confirmed the safety of one and is trying to confirm the others Monday.

The missing Korean is a resident of Bali in his 30s surnamed Lee. He had been visiting Palu, the region with the most fatalities, since Sept. 24 to take part in a paragliding competition with six Indonesian acquaintances.

Lee’s mother spoke on the phone with her son just 10 minutes before the earthquake took place, but she has not been able to reach him since. She reported him missing to the Korean Foreign Ministry.

Lee was believed to be among more than 50 people, including paragliders, trapped in an eight-story hotel in Palu that collapsed after the earthquake and powerful waves struck the city. Rescue workers have been trying to rescue survivors from the rubble.

A BNPB spokesman said in a press conference Monday that the whereabouts of five foreigners have not been confirmed, including one South Korean, three French and one Malaysian.

Lee’s mother set out to search for her missing son in Palu Monday morning with the support of the Korean Embassy in Indonesia after arriving in the country the previous day.

Because civilian flights to the region have not yet resumed, she was able to be transported to Palu with her two companions on an Indonesian military plane, accompanied by a Korean embassy official. The Korean embassy is working with the Indonesian Foreign Ministry to try to find Lee, dispatching an official to the site earlier Monday to help with search efforts.

The Jakarta Post quoted Sunday local rescue workers as saying they heard a person shouting from under the ruins of the hotel, claiming to be a participant in the paragliding competition.

It further reported that a spokesman for the Indonesian Aero Sport Federation confirmed that over 20 athletes and other participants to the Indonesia Open Paragliding Cross Country Palu Nomoni have been rescued since the earthquake, but that at least seven people remained missing, including Lee.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]