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Indonesian authorities bar all foreign aid workers from disaster sites

This is despite President Joko Widodo’s appeal for international assistance after the powerful 7.5 magnitude quake.

Members of Gift of the Givers South Africa arrived in Indonesia following a deadly earthquake and tsunami. Picture: Ziyanda Ngcobo/EWN

PALU - Indonesian authorities have now barred all foreign aid workers from helping at disaster sites in the aftermath of the country's deadly earthquake and tsunami.

This is despite President Joko Widodo’s appeal for international assistance after the powerful 7.5 magnitude quake devastated communities in the west coast island of Sulawesi.

Earlier on Tuesday, a search and recovery team from NGO the Gift of the Givers was turned away by the military from one of the hardest hit areas of Petobo.

There’s been mounting frustration among foreign aid workers and rescue teams who flew into Indonesia a few days after the double disaster. Limited access to the devastated sites has meant they've been unable to assist due to government restrictions.

After initially being granted permission and registering with the foreign ministry, disaster management centre and the Indonesian army, their hands are tied.

Gift of the Givers team leader Qasim Bhorat says the military on Tuesday told them they needed to register with yet another authority.

“What’s very frustrating is that at all the sites that we have been too, we see a need for our involvement and search and rescue.”

The volunteers have now been forced to refocus their strategy on erecting tents for over 80 families and repairing a local clinic.

GIFT OF THE GIVERS BUILDS TENTS FOR OVER 80 FAMILIES

The Gift of the Givers has been forced to re-assign its search and recovery team to the task of building tents for over 80 families after being turned away from a disaster site by the Indonesian army.

It’s been a combination of highs and lows for the organisation’s team on Monday, with the search and rescue team being told not to return to the disaster site again.

On the other hand, a group of medical volunteers managed to reach one of the most devastated areas and were able to help the needy in the badly affected village of Petobo.

Merlina (37) has burn wounds underneath her left foot and right upper thigh. She says she was on her way for prayers when she became a victim of the earthquake.

“When the earthquake happened I was going to the mosque [and] it was like a wave.”

Residents living there have described to Eyewitness News how the lack of aid after the earthquake resulted in babies having to survive without milk in an area where water is also scarce."

(Edited by Thapelo Lekabe)