CNN logo
Message Boards 

CNN Networks 

Quick News 
Video Vault 
News Quiz 

Pathfinder/Warner Bros

Barnes and Noble

Election Watch grfk

Q & A

World banner

Faster access in Asia

Americans, Canadians evacuated from Jakarta

Americans and Canadians begin leaving Indonesia Friday  

Uneasy calm returns as death toll tops 250

May 15, 1998
Web posted at: 10:43 p.m. EDT (0243 GMT)

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- In a signal of rapidly eroding confidence in the political situation in riot-torn Indonesia, about 800 Americans and Canadians were evacuated Saturday, leaving in the early hours of the morning in chartered jets.

The Indonesian government "was no longer in a position to guarantee the security of Americans," said U.S. Ambassador J. Stapleton Roy.

"We couldn't predict what was going to happen," he said.

By late Friday, security forces in Jakarta were able to restore an uneasy calm, but not before at least 230 more people died during the latest bout of violence. Most of the victims perished when four shopping centers were set on fire with looters still inside.

Scenes of destruction
video icon 2.3M/43 sec./320x240
1.5M/43 sec./160x120
QuickTime movie

Friday was a Muslim holy day in predominately Muslim Indonesia, and there were concerns that the violence, which claimed 24 lives Thursday, might escalate again on Saturday once the holy day was over.

Despite the calm in the capital, there were sporadic reports of mobs burning and looting shops in several cities across the sprawling country of 200 million people.

Government announces price cuts

President Suharto, who cut short a visit to Egypt to return home to deal with the worst political crisis in his 32 years of authoritarian rule, has yet to appear in public, huddling with advisers.

charred bodies
Charred bodies are carried from a shopping center burned by rioters  

But the government did announce that oil and electricity prices would be cut. Higher prices for these and other items announced earlier this month helped trigger the unrest that has swept the country.

However, the chorus of voices demanding Suharto's ouster grew stronger. A group of retired generals urged Suharto to go, and Kosgoro, a major faction within his ruling Golkar coalition, also called for him to step down.

"If he won't step down peacefully, then we must force him to leave," said a Kosgoro leader, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"This regime is facing its end, its death. There's no way to avoid or postpone it," said Amien Rais, a key opposition leader.

U.S. backs off from support for Indonesia

U.S. President Clinton, speaking at a summit of major world leaders in England, also distanced his government from Suharto, a staunch U.S. ally.

"Giving the people of Indonesia a real voice in the country's political affairs can make a real contribution to restoring political order and stability based on human rights and the rule of law," Clinton said.

French President Jacques Chirac said Indonesia needed a leadership capable of taking the necessary measures to restore order and warned that "if nothing happened in Indonesia, one could seriously fear the crisis will resume."

Other countries consider evacuations

The departure of the Americans and Canadians marked the first large organized evacuation of internationals since violence escalated this week, although planes out of the country have been jammed with individuals, including many Indonesians, who decided to leave on their own.

A soldier stands guard as Americans gather at the U.S. ambassador's residence  

Evacuees, given just 12 hours notice and allowed to carry out only one bag apiece, were flown to Bangkok and Singapore. They included nonessential members of the countries' diplomatic staffs and family members of diplomats and business people. Essential embassy staff remained.

U.S. firms doing business in Indonesia told their employees to pack, put them on buses and sped them to Jakarta's airports on Friday. Oil powerhouses like Mobil, Atlantic Richfield and Conoco said they had begun airlifting employees out of the capital, as did Citicorp, Merrill Lynch and other financial giants.

Canadian Ambassador Gary Smith said priority was given to children, the elderly and the infirm. More flights were planned over the weekend for those who could not get seats on the first flights.

Japanese officials said they were drawing up contingency plans to send military aircraft into Jakarta to evacuate their citizens. Malaysia planned evacuation flights for Saturday.

Australia advised its 20,000 citizens to leave, and British Ambassador Robin Christopher said his embassy was advising British nationals to stay indoors. British Airways planned a shuttle service between Jakarta and Malaysia over the weekend to assist those wishing to leave.

Correspondent Mike Chinoy and Reuters contributed to this report.


Related stories:

Related sites:

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window

External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

Infoseek search  

Message Boards Sound off on our
message boards & chat

Back to the top

© 1998 Cable News Network, Inc.
A Time Warner Company
All Rights Reserved.

Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.