Indonesia tsunami -- here's how to help with relief efforts

Indonesian authorities are struggling to handle the scale of devastation the country has experienced in the days since a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck and killed more than 840 people.

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It’s the latest natural disaster to hit Indonesia, which is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

Friday’s earthquake and tsunami, which rose as high as 20 feet in some areas near the city of Palu, has also left thousands homeless, hungry and desperate for help.

A confirmed death toll of 844 was released Monday by disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, but that number is expected to continue rising.

Conditions in the Balaroa section of Palu were particularly bad because the earthquake caused the ground to violently heave up and sink down in places, trapping many people under destroyed houses. In Petobo, another area of the city, the temblor caused loose, wet soil to liquefy, creating a thick, heavy mud that caused massive damage, Nugroho said.

“In Petobo, it is estimated that there are still hundreds of victims buried in mud material,” Nugroho said.

Questions have also been raised regarding the country’s failed disaster warning systems, and Nugroho said recent decreases in funding are to blame for inoperative tsunami buoys, instruments used to detect waves.

Mass graves, including one trench measuring 33 feet by 330 feet, may be enlarged if needed, Willem Rampangilei, chief of Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency, told The Associated Press.

“This must be done as soon as possible for health and religious reasons,” he said. Indonesia is majority Muslim, and religious custom calls for burials soon after death, typically within one day.

According to Nugroho, the European Union and 10 countries have offered aid, including the United States, Australia and China. But as hospitals continue to become overwhelmed and desperation for basics like food, water and fuel intensifies, more help is urgently needed.

How to help relief efforts in Indonesia:

You can donate funds to a variety of nonprofits and aid organizations working to help Indonesia recover.

  • Aksi Cepat Tanggap (ACT Indonesia): A humanitarian foundation that allows online bank transfers and online donations.

  • Islamic Relief USA: The organization aimed at eradicating poverty has an Indonesia earthquake relief fund.

  • CARE: The Atlanta-headquartered organization is helping provide drinking water, hygiene kits and family shelter kits in Indonesia.

  • Helping Hand for Relief and Development: The international aid organization will fund immediate earthquake relief needs, such as food, water, medical supplies and more.

  • World Vision: Also dedicated to responding to urgent needs, including blankets, food and clean water.

  • Catholic Relief Services: An on-site emergency response team will be helping address immediate needs with clean-up kits, sanitation, blankets, tarps and more.

  • Palang Merah Indonesia: Donate to the Indonesian Red Cross, which is already at the scene.

  • Humanity & Inclusion: Volunteers and partners need funds to meet the needs of displaces peoples, provide urgent medical care and rehabilitation, including psychosocial trauma support.

  • Kitabisa.com: A crowdfunding campaign with current fundraisers dedicated to Palu earthquake victims.

  • Save the Children: The global relief group has an ongoing Indonesia-specific fundraising campaign.

Tip: Use Charity Navigator to learn more about the organizations before donating. Note that sending money via text message may seem convenient, but according to the AP, that's not the case. Charities often have to wait on phone companies to release the money.