Many turn to social media to locate missing people

An aerial photo showing a mosque and surrounding structures in Palu, Central Sulawesi, that had been destroyed by an earthquake, on Sept 30, 2018.
An aerial photo showing a mosque and surrounding structures in Palu, Central Sulawesi, that had been destroyed by an earthquake, on Sept 30, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA • Indonesians desperate to trace loved ones missing in the earthquake and tsunami that struck the island of Sulawesi are turning to social media sites like Facebook to aid their search.

With the scale of the disaster still unclear, telecommunications patchy and some areas still out of reach, families are posting photos, descriptions of lost family members and contact numbers in the hope of learning more.

The death toll has soared to more than 1,200 and could climb higher, the disaster management agency said yesterday, with the authorities fearing it will climb as rescuers struggle to reach outlying communities cut off from communications and help. So far, it said, almost all the deaths had been recorded in the city of Palu, which was hit by waves as high as 6m following the 7.4-magnitude earthquake last Friday.

"Have you seen any of my family members in these photographs?" asked one user on a Facebook group with 6,843 members. "I want to know if they are safe there. I haven't got any information on them until this moment. Connection is still cut off."

Others are trying to help friends still in Palu. "Please help, anybody in Palu and areas near the city. Family members of my friend are still missing until now," said one post asking for information about a father, mother and a toddler living in the city.

Some users shared information about Palu residents who have been evacuated to a safe area.

A post on Saturday gave the names of some 53 citizens evacuated to an office of PLN - Indonesia's state-run electricity firm - along with a plea for "food, water and an electricity generator".

Some Indonesians turned to the page simply to offer support. User Eddie Moodmakerzz, who appears to be from Lombok - an Indonesian resort island hit by major quakes in July and August - had a message of solidarity. "Your sorrow is ours... Our prayers are always with you."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2018, with the headline 'Many turn to social media to locate missing people'. Print Edition | Subscribe