Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto has assured that Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu, Central Sulawesi, is under control amid reports that say survivors were blockading the airport’s runway.
Reports circulating on social media say that thousands of people who were affected by the disaster went to the airport and demanded entry to a Hercules military aircraft, triggering chaos. They also reportedly blocked the runway in protest.
The Jakarta Post’s correspondent in Palu, Andi Hajramurni, previously reported that thousands of survivors crowded the airport to leave the devastated city while staving off hunger and thirst under scorching heat. The survivors have been waiting for a chance to flee the city since Saturday, camping outside on mats or cardboard. They were hoping to catch a plane to Makassar to later go to their respective hometowns.
Hadi acknowleged that around 3,000 to 5,000 people had lined up, seeking relocation to another city, but there were only two Hercules planes at the airport so the authorities prioritized the evacuation of those who were injured or ill.
“I have coordinated with State-Owned Enterprises Minister [Rini Soemarno] so that those who are healthy among the thousands will be evacuated [using ships] owned by Pelni,” Hadi said, referring to state-owned ship operator PT Pelayaran Nasional Indonesia (Pelni).
Separately, Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said his office had also coordinated with the Air Force Special Forces (Paskhas), the National Police and the Palu military commander (Danrem) to ensure the security of commercial planes.
There were several commercial flights operating in Palu, including ones run by Lion Air, Sriwijaya, Garuda Indonesia and Wings Air, with around 22 round-trip schedules, Budi said. (swd)
The Jakarta Post