Indonesian leader says locked gates contributed to deaths of 200 people trapped under rubble of earthquake
Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo has said that the decision not to open the gates of the Grand Mosque after last week’s earthquake was a factor in the death toll.
“The decision was made by the government. The decision was not taken by the President. But when the disaster had started, the decision was made to close down the gates of the Grand Mosque, and the decision was also made around 12am, which is when it became evident that something tragic was going to happen. And if the gates had been kept open, not only could we have saved lives, but also it became an open door to allow people to flee the area,” said Joko, speaking to Reuters.
There had been a series of deadly earthquakes, with Indonesia’s quake being the second largest after the 2004 tsunami that killed an estimated 230,000 people.
“It was one of the reasons. It was one of the reasons we lost so many lives. The decision to close down the gates was made when the disaster first started,” Joko said during a meeting with the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.
He added that he would be “willing to go and open the gates and invite foreign tourists in the Grand Mosque if it was offered to him tomorrow”.
“I am willing to go and open the gates of the Grand Mosque and invite foreign tourists.
“I believe that there are tourists that are more interested in buying and selling things rather than visiting mosques. There are tourist that have more interest in visiting temples. I believe that this is a big problem we have today,” Jokowi said.
According to Reuters, he did not say whether he would allow foreign tourists into the mosque.
The Grand Mosque in the tourist-clogged city of Medan remained closed to visitors and pilgrims after last week’s earthquake.
“It is regrettable that the mosque was closed. It is a religious site but it was closed due to the earthquake. So, we are working to try to open it,” Joko told the agency.
“We do believe that there will