Indonesian leader says locked gates contributed to deaths of thousands of people during the 2004 tsunami
The doors of the heavily guarded gates to the military camp outside the port city of Palu, Indonesia were locked because the local army commander was too busy attending to the tsunami-related problems of tsunami survivors, a former top military commander has said.
“My understanding from the commander was the doors to the gates [of the camp] and the command and control headquarters were locked because he was too busy attending to the tsunami survivors,” said the former commander Hadi Tjahaja, who declined to be named.
Hadi, who served from 2003 to 2013, said he had previously told a senior military official that his staff were doing a terrible job maintaining the camp, which is located in the most-dramatic area of Palu, which was obliterated by a massive tsunami that hit the east coast of Sulawesi on Boxing Day 2004.
“My concern was with the tsunami issue and the inability to deal with the tsunami victims,” said Hadi of the camp. “My concern was the lack of resources and the absence or failure to provide services to the victims.”
He said his staff were the primary source of the difficulties, adding that the camp “was not manned properly to meet the emergency need.”
“This is the issue I raised. They [the staff] were lacking resources, not being prepared enough and lacked the ability,” he added.
The camp is about 50 kilometres from the epicentre of the tsunami that killed 1,500 people and caused $10 billion in damages to Indonesia as the earthquake-whipper that would soon be known as the 7.8-magnitude quake and tsunami struck the western part of the island on December 26 2004.
During a recent interview with the Jakarta Globe, Hadi said: “We have been under pressure from the [government] and from the world media, especially the international community, to open the gates to the camp to enable the victims to be assisted.
“We are doing what is expected of us and expected by us. But when we see what the casualties are, we should also be doing more to provide help to the survivors, if there is any. So we are making every effort to open the gates.”
A day after the tsunami struck, a few thousand people began arriving, including around 100 women and children, some of whom were not