Four Soldiers Killed In Indonesia Helicopter Crash

The wreckage of an Indonesian military Mi-17 helicopter is seen at a crash site in Kendal on June 6, 2020. STR / AFP

 

Four soldiers were killed and five others were injured after a helicopter crashed during a training exercise on Indonesia’s Java island on Saturday, an army official said.

The men were in the middle of a flying lesson when the MI-17 helicopter crashed and caught fire in central Java province.

“The incident killed four crew members and injured five others,” said Nefra Firdaus, Indonesian Army spokesman, in a statement.

The injured were evacuated and taken to hospital.

Firdaus said that prior to the accident the helicopter had undergone a pre-flight check and was found to be in good condition.

The cause of the accident is still under investigation.

AFP

Indonesia Pulls Out Of Annual Mecca Pilgrimage Over COVID-19 Fears

Health officials observe health protocols at an emergency installation at a hospital in Surabaya, East Java, on May 29, 2020, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Juni Kriswanto / AFP.

 

Indonesia is pulling out of the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca over coronavirus fears, the religious affairs ministry said Tuesday, removing the largest contingent of worshippers.

More than 220,000 people from the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country were set to take part in this year’s hajj, which all Muslims must perform at least once in their lives if able.

The global pandemic has plunged the ritual into doubt, but Riyadh has yet to announce a final decision on whether it will go ahead with the end-of-July celebration.

On Tuesday, Indonesia said it was pulling out of the pilgrimage, which last year drew about 2.5 million Muslims to Saudi Arabia from across the globe.

“This was a very bitter and difficult decision,” religious affairs minister Fachrul Razi told a televised press briefing.

“But we have a responsibility to protect our pilgrims and hajj workers.”

Last month, Indonesia pressed Riyadh to announce its decision and President Joko Widodo later held a telephone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on the matter, Razi said.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Deaths In Russia Surpass 5,000

Jakarta had considered allowing half the usual number of pilgrims to travel in order to limit the risk, but instead opted to keep them all at home, he added.

The hajj is a key revenue earner for the kingdom but risks becoming a major source of contagion if millions flock to Mecca’s religious sites.

Indonesia’s decision was a disappointment for some who have been on a pilgrimage waiting list for years.

“I knew this was a possibility, but now that it’s official I can’t help but be heartbroken — I’ve been waiting for years,” 37-year-old civil servant Ria Taurisnawati told AFP as she sobbed.

“All my preparations were done, the clothes were ready and I got the necessary vaccination. But God has another plan,” she added.

AFP

Indonesia Economy Sees Weakest Growth In Almost Two Decades

Chinese tourists wearing facemasks as a preventative measure following a coronavirus outbreak which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, walk after arriving from Nusa Penida at the fast boat pier in Serangan island in Denpasar, on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali on January 27, 2020. SONNY TUMBELAKA / AFP.

 

Indonesia’s economy grew in the first quarter at its slowest pace for almost two decades, and economists warned Tuesday the coronavirus crisis would likely deal an even greater blow in the next three months.

The news comes as governments around the world struggle to contain the deadly disease, which has essentially shut down the global economy, which is expected to fall into recession this year.

Southeast Asia’s biggest economy grew 2.97 percent in January-February, the worst rate since 2001 and well short of the 5.07 percent in the same period last year. It also missed forecasts of four percent expansion, while marking a contraction of 2.41 percent from the previous quarter.

Statistics agency chairman Suhariyanto, who goes by one name, said in a virtual news conference: “No countries are immune to the COVID-19. Whether developed or developing countries, they were hit badly by the virus and Indonesia is no exception.”

READ ALSO: Kenya Demands Probe As Plane Crash Kills 6 Over Somalia

The statistics agency pointed to a severe hit to the key tourism sector, saying only 2.6 million visitors went to Indonesia in the three months, down a third on-year.

And analysts warned of more pain ahead.

“GDP growth in Indonesia held up better than elsewhere in the first quarter, at least according to the official figures, but we doubt this resilience will last”, warned Capital Economics in a note.

“Indonesia was later than other countries to lock down its economy, meaning more of the hit will have fallen in the second quarter,” it said, adding that it expects a “large contraction” in April-June.

Officials have cut their official growth forecast to 2.3 percent for this year, from a previous estimate of 5.3 percent, and said it could even suffer a contraction under a worst-case scenario

Indonesia has banned domestic train, air and sea travel until June 1 in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 11,000 people and killed 864 in the country. However, the toll is widely believed to be much higher as it has one of the lowest testing rates in the world.

The ban on sea travel could hamper the movement of millions in a country of some 17,000 islands where passenger ferries are a key mode of transportation.

The government had already called on residents of major cities, including the capital Jakarta, to stay put.

AFP

COVID-19: Trump To Sell Ventilators To Developing Countries To Fight Virus

FUS President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference on COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, March 13, 2020. Trump is declaring coronavirus a national emergency. SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

President Donald Trump’s administration said Friday it would sell ventilators to at least four developing countries to fight the coronavirus, saying US needs were being met.

Trump said he spoke by telephone to the presidents of Indonesia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Honduras and promised that the United States would send the vital medical equipment.

“We will be sending them desperately needed Ventilators, of which we have recently manufactured many, and helping them in other ways,” Trump wrote on Twitter of his call to President Lenin Moreno of Ecuador, which has seen a spike in coronavirus cases.

Michael Kozak, the top US diplomat for Latin America, confirmed the United States was selling the ventilators.

“We’re seeing our own needs met; we can become an exporter again,” Kozak told reporters.

“I think in many of these cases that the countries just want to buy them. They aren’t asking us for financing,” he said.

But Kozak said some countries may use assistance from the United States to make the purchases.

Governors led by New York’s Andrew Cuomo said they were seriously short of ventilators at the start of the pandemic and had faulted the federal government.

But Cuomo last week said New York would send ventilators to Michigan and Maryland as the situation had stabilized in his own state — the worst-hit by the pandemic that has killed more than 50,000 people in the United States.

With companies such as Ford and General Motors switching to ventilator production, Trump has boasted that the country as a whole is in good shape and said foreign leaders were asking him for supplies.

“No country is equipped like we are. We have 11 different places making ventilators,” Trump told reporters Thursday.

“Our country, as you know, doesn’t need them now. Our governors are very happy,” Trump said.

In his tweets, Trump praised Honduras and El Salvador for helping curb emigration to the United States — a signature issue for the mogul-turned-president.

Guatemala is also a major source of migrants but has temporarily stopped accepting deported citizens from the United States due to coronavirus infections.

Kozak said that Guatemala — not mentioned in Trump’s tweets on ventilators — was not being punished.

“There isn’t some hard linkage here between cooperation on removals and ventilators. We’re trying to get medicine and medical supplies to anybody who needs them”

Indonesia Bans Air, Sea Travel Until June Over COVID-19 Fears

Hospital kitchen workers clad in full PPE deliver meals to COVID-19 coronavirus patients at an isolation section of Bogor general hospital in Bogor, West Java on April 23, 2020. ADITYA AJI / AFP
Hospital kitchen workers clad in full PPE deliver meals to COVID-19 coronavirus patients at an isolation section of Bogor general hospital in Bogor, West Java on April 23, 2020.
ADITYA AJI / AFP

 

Indonesia will ban all air and sea travel until June, officials said Thursday, in an apparent effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus during the holiest period on the Islamic calendar. 

The temporary ban takes effect Friday, the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan for the Muslim-majority country, and lasts until June 1.

It comes a day after the government, fearing an explosion in virus cases, banned the annual exodus for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan, when millions travel to their hometowns and ancestral villages.

The latest measure will not apply to emergency, diplomatic or cargo transport, the government said.

The repatriation of Indonesian citizens from abroad and foreigners living in the Southeast Asian archipelago will also be exempt.

“It applies to both domestic and international commercial travel but there are some exceptions,”  Transportation Ministry spokeswoman Adita Irawati told AFP.

The country’s biggest airlines Garuda and Lion Air had already scaled backed their commercial flights as the tourism market shrivelled up.

But the ban on sea travel could hamper the movement of millions in a country of some 17,000 islands where passenger ferries are a key mode of transportation.

The government had already called on residents of major cities, including the capital Jakarta, to stay put.

As of Thursday, Indonesia had confirmed 7,775 cases of COVID-19 and 647 deaths.

But the toll is widely believed to be much higher in a country with one of the lowest testing rates in the world.

 

AFP

Indonesia Bans Air, Sea Travel Until June Over COVID-19 Fears

Health officials take samples of saliva and nasal fluid from a resident (L) to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Tangerang on April 2, 2020. FAJRIN RAHARJO / AFP.

 

Indonesia will ban all air and sea travel until June, officials said Thursday, in an apparent effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus during the holiest period on the Islamic calendar.

The temporary ban takes effect Friday, the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan for the Muslim-majority country, and lasts until June 1.

It comes a day after the government, fearing an explosion in virus cases, banned the annual exodus for Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan, when millions travel to their hometowns and ancestral villages.

The latest measure will not apply to emergency, diplomatic or cargo transport, the government said.

The repatriation of Indonesian citizens from abroad and foreigners living in the Southeast Asian archipelago will also be exempt.

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“It applies to both domestic and international commercial travel but there are some exceptions,” Transportation Ministry spokeswoman Adita Irawati told AFP.

The country’s biggest airlines Garuda and Lion Air had already scaled backed their commercial flights as the tourism market shrivelled up.

But the ban on sea travel could hamper the movement of millions in a country of some 17,000 islands where passenger ferries are a key mode of transportation.

The government had already called on residents of major cities, including the capital Jakarta, to stay put.

As of Thursday, Indonesia had confirmed 7,775 cases of COVID-19 and 647 deaths.

But the toll is widely believed to be much higher in a country with one of the lowest testing rates in the world.

AFP

Indonesia Frees 18,000 Inmates From Bursting Jails Over COVID-19 Fears

Health officials take samples of saliva and nasal fluid from a resident (L) to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Tangerang on April 2, 2020. FAJRIN RAHARJO / AFP.

 

Indonesia has released 18,000 inmates in a desperate bid to stop coronavirus from rampaging through its notoriously overcrowded prison system, authorities said Thursday.

The mass release comes days after the Southeast Asian nation said it would free more than 30,000 inmates to take pressure off prisons and jails beset by unsanitary conditions and long at risk of infectious diseases.

The UN has called on countries to release vulnerable inmates, with Afghanistan last week announcing it would set free some 10,000 prisoners.

“Our target is to release 30,000 inmates in total, but it could end up being more,” said Rika Aprianti, a spokeswoman for the Corrections Directorate General.

“This is part of the plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in prisons.”

She offered few details, but a government release order included juvenile offenders and adult prisoners who had served at least two-thirds of their sentences.

READ ALSO: Israel Health Minister Contracts COVID-19, Netanyahu Re-enters Quarantine

Prisoners were advised to self quarantine at home after release.

Among them was Firdaus, a fisherman jailed in 2017 on Sulawesi island for stealing a gold ring.

“I was scared of being infected in prison, not to mention that the guards come and go so we don’t know who they’ve had contact with,” said the 33-year-old, who was set for release in November.

But his relief was tempered by the thought of others still inside.

“I’m not that happy because I left my friends behind,” he said.

Indonesia’s creaking prison system has just 522 institutions for some 270,000 inmates. It suffers from regular jailbreaks and criticism for its often deplorable conditions.

Amnesty International welcomed the release, but called on the government to make sure “prisoners of conscience” and older inmates with health problems were set free.

“They’re vulnerable to COVID-19 and, in the name of humanity, they must be released,” said Amnesty Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid.

“Conditions including a lack of access to clean water and severe overcrowding will be exacerbated by the outbreak.”

AFP

11-Year-Old Indonesian Girl Dies After Contracting Coronavirus

Workers carry a coffin of a victim of the COVID-19 coronavirus during a funeral in Jakarta on March 31, 2020. BAY ISMOYO / AFP.

 

An 11-year-old girl has become Indonesia’s youngest person to die after contracting the coronavirus, officials said Wednesday, as the country’s death toll from COVID-19 nearly tripled from a week ago.

The girl, who was also suffering from dengue fever, was admitted to hospital on Madura Island off the coast of Java on March 19.

She had a fever and breathing difficulties, and died the following day.

Tests only confirmed this week that the girl also had COVID-19.

“Her immune system was quite poor,” said Joni Wahyuhadi, an official at East Java’s virus task force.

“She was battling two illnesses at once so that’s why her condition worsened.”

Indonesia said Wednesday its death toll from COVID-19 had reached 157 — including 11 frontline doctors — compared with 58 a week ago.

READ ALSO: Kyrgyz Health Minister, Vice Premier Sacked Over COVID-19 Response

Infections have more than doubled over the same period to 1,677.

But rates of testing are low and experts fear the true figures are far higher in the country of more than 260 million people.

While the virus is most dangerous for the elderly, there have been a number of cases around the world of younger people dying.

AFP

Thousands Quarantined In Indonesian Complex Over Feared Coronavirus Outbreak


SONNY TUMBELAKA / AF

 

More than 40,000 workers at a vast Chinese-controlled industrial complex in Indonesia have been quarantined over fears about the spread of a deadly coronavirus strain which has killed more than 200 people in China, it said Friday.

PT Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park has sealed off its nickel mining hub on Sulawesi island and is barring any of its 43,000 staff from entering or leaving without written permission.

There are some 5,000 guest workers from mainland China at the sprawling site which hosts nickel ore smelters and stainless steel production.

Employees at the 2,000-hectare (5,000 acre) facility, majority-owned by China’s Shanghai Decent Investment Group, are undergoing medical tests and none has been found to be infected so far, said company spokesman Dedy Kurniawan.

The firm has also imposed a ban on employees or guests from overseas entering the complex and installed thermal scanners at its entrance, he added.

“We have identified and screened foreign workers from Wuhan,” Kurniawan told AFP on Friday.

“We also stopped accepting foreign workers.”

Indonesia has not reported any confirmed infections so far.

Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, is at the centre of the outbreak which is believed to have originated in a market that sold wild animals.

The city of 11 million has since experienced an unprecedented lockdown, preventing residents from leaving in a bid to stop the deadly virus from spreading further.

The lockdown at the Indonesian plant, which started at the weekend, comes as Indonesia said Friday it was preparing to evacuate more than 240 nationals stranded in China near the epicentre of the virus within the next 24 hours.

Indonesia, a Southeast Asian archipelago, attracts more than one million Chinese tourists annually to Bali and other holiday hotspots and also hosts thousands of guest workers from major investor China.

AFP

Flash Floods Kill Nine In Indonesia

Young men wait under a concrete bridge looking to salvage valuable items carried by the currents 
BAY ISMOYO / AFP

 

Flash floods and landslides have killed at least nine people and forced thousands into temporary shelters on Indonesia’s Sumatra island, the local disaster agency said Thursday.

Torrential rain in North Sumatra this week sparked the disaster, with most victims drowning or hit by logs swept away in the current, the agency added.

“We suspect (two victims) were killed after getting hit by logs,” said Safaruddin Ananda Nasution, head of Central Tapanuli’s disaster mitigation agency.

Rampant illegal logging in the area may have contributed to the disaster by loosening the soil and making it susceptible to landslides, he added.

Several thousand residents have fled to shelters.

This month, record rains triggered flooding and landslides that killed nearly 70 people in and around Jakarta, which is on neighbouring Java island.

Entire neighbourhoods in Indonesia’s capital — a megalopolis home to around 30 million people — were submerged in floodwaters that forced tens of thousands into shelters.

The Southeast Asian archipelago is regularly hit by floods during the rainy season, which started in late November.

AFP

737 MAX: After 10 Months Of Crisis For Boeing, Questions Remain

 

 

Boeing is still far from seeing an end to its continuing crisis over the 737 MAX airplane. Ten months after two fatal crashes led to the grounding of the aerospace giant’s star passenger jet, many serious questions remain, including the date of its return to service.

David Calhoun, 62, a former top executive at General Electric, is to take charge of the aircraft manufacturer on Monday, after CEO Dennis Muilenburg was ousted in late December over what critics said was his catastrophic handling of the crisis.

– What exactly happened? –
On March 10, 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX crashed southeast of Addis Ababa just minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 on board.

It was the second accident in five months for the model, which Boeing launched in May 2017 as a competitor for Airbus’s A320neo in the lucrative narrow-body aircraft segment.

The October 2018 crash in Indonesia of a Lion Air 737 MAX had claimed 189 lives.

On March 13 of last year, the United States and Canada became the last two countries to ground MAX planes. Thus began Boeing’s crisis.

When will the MAX fly again?

It’s hard to say. The most optimistic prediction is late February or early March, but some experts, including the respected Richard Aboulafia of the Virginia-based Teal group, speak of late April or early May.

United Airlines has ruled out flying the MAX before June.

Investigations by Indonesian and Ethiopian authorities raised questions about the plane’s automated flight control system known as MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System).

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered Boeing to provide a fix, which the company is working on.

But as a result of the crisis FAA has subjected the MAX, which was only partially inspected during its original flight certification, to microscopic scrutiny.

The agency at first detected a problem with the microprocessor that manages flight systems and then, more recently, a flaw in the electrical wiring.

Once Boeing has resolved all problems, the FAA should set a date for a test flight — the last major hurdle before the MAX is green-lighted to return to service.

Boeing has taken one major step in that direction: after long resisting having MAX pilots train on flight simulators rather than on computers — a longer and more costly option, but one demanded by European and Canadian regulators — Boeing has finally backed that course.

– Is Boeing still building and delivering the MAX? –
Boeing suspended MAX deliveries a few days after the planes were grounded. It had continued to produce the aircraft, but has built none since January 1.

From mid-March to the end of December, Boeing produced 400 MAX planes, bringing the total number built to 787. Of those, 387 were in service when orders to ground them went out.

The planes are parked at different Boeing sites in the US.

Is Boeing in financial trouble?

No. As of the end of September, the company had $10 billion in hand and about $20 billion in available funds, according to financial documents.

Besides passenger planes, Boeing builds military aircraft and equipment. It also has a space division.

Nevertheless, the costs linked to the MAX crisis have continued to mount. They had already reached $9.2 billion by the end of September and should soar as Boeing deals with demands for damages and compensation from airline companies, aircraft-leasing firms, parts suppliers and victims’ families.

To cover future expenses, the company expects to turn to the financial markets to borrow up to $5 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal.

– What about Boeing employees?? –
The company so far has ruled out any firings or layoffs, which could provoke a political outcry in this US election year.

Boeing has already shifted thousands of workers to other programs — building its 767, 787 and 777/777X models — and has promised to find jobs for others.

– How are suppliers affected? –
The consequences vary. Engine builders like General Electric and Safran Aircraft Engines, through their CFM joint venture, are partially spared since they also build engines for Airbus.

Along with other smaller American suppliers, they will profit from Airbus’s surprise decision to ramp up production of the A320 in the southern US city of Mobile, Alabama.

But the Spirit AeroSystems group, which provides fuselages and other parts for the MAX, has been hard hit; the 737 program represents more than half its turnover. The company plans to cut 16 percent of its workforce — around 2,800 employees — and has not ruled out further cuts.

– Is Airbus profiting as Boeing struggles? –
Airbus received orders for 768 planes in 2019 and delivered 863. Boeing, which has yet to publish its full-year figures, had delivered 345 as of the end of November, while 84 orders were lost.

Airbus also gained ground in the important middle of the market sector with its launch of the A321XLR, which will give air carriers the ability to open new long-haul routes between secondary cities using a narrow-body craft that is less expensive, easier to fill and thus more profitable.

The first orders are already pouring in, notably from United Airlines, which ordered 50 of the new aircraft in December.

Boeing is banking on its own NMA (New Midsize Airplane), built to carry from 220 to 270 passengers on routes up to 5,400 miles (8,700 kilometers). But progress has been slow, and it is unclear, given the severe challenges over the MAX program, whether the NMA will be rolled out this year as planned. (Boeing has not decided to launch the NMA yet. It promised to make a decision this year.)

Indonesia Deploys Fighter Jets, Warships To Disputed Waters In China Spat

 

 

Indonesia has deployed fighter jets and warships to patrol islands near the disputed South China Sea, the military said Wednesday, escalating tensions with Beijing after a diplomatic spat over “trespassing” Chinese vessels.

President Joko Widodo also headed Wednesday to the fishing-rich waters around the Natuna Islands, which border the South China Sea, most of which is claimed by China despite competing claims from other Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia.

The Indonesian military said it had deployed eight warships and four jet fighters ahead of Widodo’s visit in an apparent bid to assert its sovereignty over the region.

“I have said many times Natuna is our sovereign territory,” Widodo told reporters.

“There is nothing to be debated…I hope this is clear.”

A Chinese coast guard vessel was spotted in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone Wednesday, the government said.

“We have deployed eight warships,” said Navy spokesman Fajar Tri Rohadi.

The air force said fighter jets had also been deployed.

“(But) our personnel have been told that we are not going to make provocations but rather protect our territory,” said Air Commodore Ronny Irianto Moningka.

China’s foreign ministry downplayed the incident and said there was “no dispute over territorial sovereignty” between Beijing and Jakarta — though the two have “overlapping claims for maritime rights” in the South China Sea.

Indonesia does not lay claim in the South China Sea but said it would not tolerate incursions by China — a key trading partner — into its nearby waters.

“We are willing to continue to properly handle differences with Indonesia,” said spokesman Geng Shuang at a press briefing in Beijing on Wednesday.

“China and Indonesia have always maintained communication through diplomatic channels on this matter,” Geng said.

Indonesia’s move to send in warships follows the deployment on Friday of around 600 personnel from the navy, army and air force to Natuna as the military launched what it called a regular patrol to secure the area due to the presence of foreign vessels in Indonesian waters.

Jakarta said it would also send hundreds of fishermen to the area to keep an eye out for foreign vessels.

That followed Indonesia summoning the Chinese ambassador last week and lodging a “strong protest” over a Chinese coast guard vessel escorting Chinese fishing boats around the islands in mid-December.

Beijing responded that it has “historic rights” in the region and that fishing boats had been carrying out “legal and reasonable” activities.

Beijing lays claim to huge swathes of the South China Sea, where it is accused of building military installations and artificial islands — and ramming fishing vessels.

China claims the majority of the resource-rich waterway through the so-called nine-dash line, a vague delineation based on maps from the 1940s as the then Republic of China snapped up islands from Japanese control.