THE Indonesian military has ordered its soldiers to shoot people caught looting on the quake and tsunami-struck island of Sulawesi, a colonel said on Wednesday, amid widespread desperation of survivors raiding shops for food and water.
The instruction came following dozens of arrests by police involving people looting in the disaster zone around the seaside city of Palu, which has much of its buildings and houses decimated from the natural disasters.
Local military colonel Ida Dewa Agung Hadisaputra said soldiers had now been given orders to shoot people spotted stealing from shops, the AFP reported.
“If there is looting again, we will quickly fire a warning shot and then shoot to immobilise,” he said.
“They tried to loot on the first day, when gasoline… and water were not available. Stores were also closed.
“That kind of situation caused them to loot.”
“We could tolerate it (looting) on the first and second day because they needed those things,” he continued.
“But on the third day, they started looting things like electronic equipment.”
He said at least five armed soldiers would be guarding every vehicle carrying supplies.
Authorities in the area have in many cases stood by as people raided shops for vital goods in short supply. The quake and tsunami which struck the area on Friday which has left over 1,400 people dead.
Almost 200,000 others are in need urgent help, the UN’s humanitarian office said. The figure included tens of thousands of children, with authorities estimating 66,000 homes destroyed or damaged.
An international effort to help is gearing up, after the government overcame a traditional reluctance to take foreign help, according to Reuters.
“The government of Indonesia is experienced and well-equipped in managing natural disasters, but sometimes, as with all other countries, outside help is also needed,” UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said in a statement.
He announced an allocation of US$15 million.
“Given the scale and complexity of this emergency, U.N. agencies and humanitarian organisations are working closely with government counterparts to provide life-saving assistance,” he said.