Tue, Oct 09, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Pula schools reopen as aid floods in

LEARNING the MISSING:One principal said his school would not force children to return, but restarting classes might help keep their spirits up

Reuters, PALU, Indonesia

The minaret of a mosque yesterday tilts among the rubble left in the Blaaroa area of Palu, Indonesia, by an earthquake and tsumani on Sept. 28.

Photo: AFP

Children in the Indonesian city of Palu yesterday began returning to school to tidy up their classrooms and to help gather data on how many of them will be coming back 10 days after a major earthquake and tsunami hit their city.

The magnitude 7.5 quake on Sept. 28 brought down many buildings in the small city on Sulawesi, while tsunami waves smashed into its beachfront.

However, the biggest killer was probably soil liquefaction, which happens when a powerful quake turns the ground into a liquid mire and which obliterated several Palu neighborhoods.

The official death toll reached 1,948 yesterday, but thousands more are believed unaccounted and bodies are still being recovered.

No one knows how many people are missing, especially in Balaroa and Petobothe, two areas hit by liquefaction, but it could be as high as 5,000, Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management head Willem Rampangilei said.

However, that number must be verified by his teams because it is an unofficial figure that came from village heads in the area.

At one state high school, teenagers dressed in gray-and-white uniforms swept up broken glass in the classrooms. Trophies had fallen from a broken school showcase and the basketball court was cracked.

“It’s sad to see our school like this,” said Dewi Rahmawati, 17, who expects to graduate next year and wants to study economics at university.

The students found out that they had to turn up to school through messages on Facebook and WhatsApp.

School principal Kasiludin said authorities told all teachers to show up for work from yesterday to collect information on student numbers.

“We won’t force the students to come back because many are traumatized, but we must start again soon to keep their spirits up and so they don’t fall behind,” he said.

The school had lost at least seven students and one teacher, he said.

Across the city, nine schools were destroyed, 22 teachers were killed and 14 were missing, the disaster agency said, adding that 140 tents had been set up for classes.

At the SMP Negeri 15 Palu middle school, fewer than 50 of its 697 students showed up.

School principal Abdul Rashid said he was aware of four students killed in the quake.

“Classes haven’t started. We’re only collecting data to find out how many students are safe,” he said.

“I’m still waiting for the Ministry of Education to give us instructions on when to begin classes. For now, I don’t think we’re ready. Many children are traumatized and frightened,” he said.

One boy chatting in the school compound with friends said he was disappointed that so few of his classmates had shown up.

“I haven’t heard from so many of them. I want to think positively; I hope they are OK,” Muhamad Islam Bintang Lima said, dressed in the school uniform of white shirt and navy blue trousers.

Most of the dead from the quake and tsunami were in Palu, the region’s main urban center.

Figures for more remote areas are trickling in, but they seem to have suffered fewer deaths than the city.

Talks were under way with religious authorities and surviving family members to decide whether some areas could be turned into mass graves for victims entombed there with monuments built to remember them.

Additional reporting by AP

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