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Indonesia Orders Independent Foreign Aid Workers to Leave Earthquake-Hit Zone

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As Indonesia reels from a devastating earthquake and tsunami, the government on Tuesday ordered independent foreign aid workers to leave the disaster zone, Reuters reports.

“Foreign citizens who are working with foreign NGOs are not allowed to conduct any activity on the sites affected,” the country’s disaster agency said in its English-language notice.

“Foreign NGOs who have deployed its foreign personnel are advised to retrieve their personnel immediately,” it added.

On September 28, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake struck central Sulawesi, triggering a powerful tsunami. At least 1,948 were killed and about 70,000 displaced in the devastating disaster, according to Reuters. It’s unclear how many people remain missing after thousands were feared buried in the mud and rubble in the hardest-hit cities like Palu.

Indonesia is usually wary of accepting outside aid for fear of appearing unable to handle the situation, and the concern may be especially prevalent in the run-up to the 2019 election.

But in the wake of the latest quake, Indonesia accepted relief efforts from abroad, though foreign aid groups told Reuters they faced difficulties getting entry permits for staff and equipment, as well as confusion about the rules.

It’s unclear how many aid workers will be affected be Tuesday’s order.

The latest posting of restrictions on foreign help is seen to be an effort protect the country’s image as it manages the disaster. The government has allocated about $37 million for disaster relief, and about 20 countries have extended help, Reuters reports.

By contrast, Indonesia steered clear of foreign aid when tremors wreaked havoc on the island of Lombok in August.

Indonesia, located in the tectonically active Ring of Fire, is highly susceptible to enormous quakes.

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