Jokowi rallies quake survivors in Aceh as rescue operations enter 3rd day

Indonesian President Joko Widodo visits a hospital treating victims of the deadly 6.5 magnitude quake that hit on Wednesday. Search and rescue efforts stretch into day three while thousands find themselves newly homeless.
Indonesia President Joko Widodo visits people injured in the Aceh earthquake at the Tgk Chik Ditiro Sigli Hospital in Sigli, Aceh, on Friday (Dec 9).
Indonesia President Joko Widodo visits people injured in the Aceh earthquake at the Tgk Chik Ditiro Sigli Hospital in Sigli, Aceh, on Friday (Dec 9).PHOTO: PRESIDENTIAL SECRETRIAT, INDONESIA
Indonesia President Joko Widodo visits people injured in the Aceh earthquake at the Tgk Chik Ditiro Sigli Hospital in Sigli, Aceh, on Friday (Dec 9).
Indonesia President Joko Widodo visits people injured in the Aceh earthquake at the Tgk Chik Ditiro Sigli Hospital in Sigli, Aceh, on Friday (Dec 9).PHOTO: PRESIDENTIAL SECRETRIAT, INDONESIA
Indonesia President Joko Widodo visits people injured in the Aceh earthquake at the Tgk Chik Ditiro Sigli Hospital in Sigli, Aceh, on Friday (Dec 9).
Indonesia President Joko Widodo visits people injured in the Aceh earthquake at the Tgk Chik Ditiro Sigli Hospital in Sigli, Aceh, on Friday (Dec 9).PHOTO: PRESIDENTIAL SECRETRIAT, INDONESIA
Indonesia President Joko Widodo visits people injured in the Aceh earthquake at the Tgk Chik Ditiro Sigli Hospital in Sigli, Aceh, on Friday (Dec 9).
Indonesia President Joko Widodo visits people injured in the Aceh earthquake at the Tgk Chik Ditiro Sigli Hospital in Sigli, Aceh, on Friday (Dec 9).PHOTO: PRESIDENTIAL SECRETRIAT, INDONESIA
Indonesia President Joko Widodo visits people injured in the Aceh earthquake at the Tgk Chik Ditiro Sigli Hospital in Sigli, Aceh, on Friday (Dec 9).
Indonesia President Joko Widodo visits people injured in the Aceh earthquake at the Tgk Chik Ditiro Sigli Hospital in Sigli, Aceh, on Friday (Dec 9).PHOTO: PRESIDENTIAL SECRETRIAT, INDONESIA
A boy standing on rubble from a collapsed building following this week's strong earthquake in Meureudu market, Pidie Jaya, Aceh province, Indonesia, on Dec 9, 2016.
A boy standing on rubble from a collapsed building following this week's strong earthquake in Meureudu market, Pidie Jaya, Aceh province, Indonesia, on Dec 9, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - President Joko Widodo on Friday (Dec 9) rallied survivors of this week's quake in Aceh during a visit to areas that suffered the worst devastation in the magnitude 6.5 earthquake, as rescue operations entered the third day.

The president, popularly known as Jokowi, said at the damaged Al-Aziziyah Islamic Institute, which has more than 3,000 students, in Bireun, Aceh: “We will clean up the Al-Aziziyah building tomorrow and we will immediately rebuild.

“Don’t let education stop. The military will do the cleaning tomorrow, and the public works ministry will then rebuild it.”

Earlier the president visited schools and a mosque damaged in the quake. The earthquake struck at dawn on Wednesday as many in the predominantly Muslim province were preparing for prayers.  

"Rebuilding will start immediately. Public works ministry and education ministry will get involved in rebuilding," he told reporters.

"For residents' houses affected, we are counting how many are seriously damaged and moderately or lightly damaged. Families with collapsed or seriously damaged houses will get 40 million rupiah (S$4,000), while those with moderately damaged houses will get 20 million rupiah aid from the government. This will stimulate them to start rebuilding their homes.

"School kids will have classrooms under the tents temporarily.

"The hospitals have taken care of almost everyone affected. Almost all of those with fractured, broken bones have undergone surgery. Hospitals said they will finish all of them by end of today (Friday)."

The president's first stop on Friday morning was the Tgk Chik Ditiro Sigli Hospital, where he visited the bedside of those injured in the quake, which killed 100 people. The toll was revised from an earlier 102 figure by the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), citing double counting.

Sigli is a town in Pidie regency, 60km from Pidie Jaya, which is the worst-hit area in Aceh and where ongoing rescue efforts are focused.

Most of the victims were being treated for fractures, hospital staff told reporters, but most of them were pleased to see Mr Joko. A father of a toddler being treated for injuries even asked the president to take a selfie with his family.

Houswife Khatijah Ismail, 48, who lives in Pidie Jaya regency, was one of those who chose to live in relief shelters for the time being, even though her house only suffered some light damage. 

“We are still worried because the earthquake felt so strong, so we moved to this shelter but we will return home later, we just wanted to stay here for a couple of days,” she told The Straits Times on Friday. 

“There is abundant food here, and there a lot of people who come and donate food to us.”

Latest updates show that at least 750 were injured, and both the death and injury toll were expected to rise.

The president had arrived in Aceh's provincial capital of Banda Aceh on Thursday evening after speaking at an international democracy forum in Bali.

After meeting local officials on Thursday night, Mr Joko also visited quake victims being treated at the Zainal Abidin General Hospital in Banda Aceh, reported The Jakarta Post on Friday.

"It's important to see that medical treatment is being provided quickly and well; I have to see it for myself," Mr Joko said.

More than 11,100 people, including many from Pidie Jaya, have fled their homes over concerns that more houses may collapse from the aftershocks.