Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo has urged all regional heads to work hand-in-hand to help disaster-hit Lombok Island in West Nusa Tenggara, amid pleas to declare the deadly earthquakes a national disaster.
Tjahjo held a meeting with National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) head Willem Rampangilei to discuss disaster. The two said it would take time for the BNPB to purchase disaster management equipment for Lombok.
“So we ask regional disaster mitigation offices [BPBD] to send anything they have to help,” he said in a press statement on Tuesday, adding that aid could be disbursed through regional administrations.
He urged regional administrations from the regions closest to West Nusa Tenggara, such as Bali and those in Java, to swiftly send personnel and equipment to help affected residents. The administrations could use their unused funds from their respective regional budgets to send aid.
“We have sent a letter of the legalities for distributing aid. This is for the sake of gotong royong [working together] in addition to funds allocated by the finance minister,” Tjahjo said.
There has been mounting pleas from the public and local councilors in West Nusa Tenggara to declare the string of quakes and aftershocks a national disaster. The earthquakes claimed at least 487 lives, injured 7,700 people and displaced more than 410,000 people. Thousands of buildings, including public facilities, were also damaged in the powerful quakes, the first of which rocked the island on July 29.
However, Tjahjo asserted that the provincial administration along with regional-level administrations had not been paralyzed by the quakes and public services continued to operate. Moreover, the central government had also directed help to the province on a national scale.
“I don’t think we need to engage in debate over whether this is a national disaster. The central government has paid extra attention not only to Lombok but to all regions when similar things take place,” he said.