Businesses Pull Out of Indonesia
May. 15, 1998
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ American companies doing business in Indonesia pulled out en masse today in response to the turmoil caused by four days of rioting and student protests.
Oil powerhouses like Mobil, Atlantic Richfield and Conoco said today they had begun airlifting employees out of the capital, as did Citicorp, Merrill Lynch and other financial giants.
Midday phone calls to the Jakarta offices of McDonald's and Freeport-McMoRan were met with answering machines. Many companies gave employees and their families one-way tickets to nearby foreign cities.
Joe Bartlett, a top official with the American Chamber of Commerce, today visited some American companies to see how they are coping.
A few top executives went into work today, Bartlett said.
``But if you can get someone on the phone, you'll hear that they're on their way out,'' he said.
Many evacuees left from Halim airport, the city's secondary airport, used mainly by the military. Jakarta's International Airport has been overrun since Thursday by throngs of fleeing Chinese, the targets of violent rioters who have burned and looted homes and businesses around the city.
``We're just looking to get to a safer spot,'' said Nancy Carmack, from Grand Junction, Colo., whose husband works for Oil Tools International.
She described the last 24 hours as ``chaos.''
Carmack said she and her two children packed their bags in less than an hour after the company called to say a flight had been secured. They were headed to Singapore where they'll stay, she said, ``until it's safe.''
While foreign companies organized evacuation flights, the State Department told American citizens to get out of Indonesia's two major cities ``as soon as possible.''
The U.S. Embassy estimated that at least 8,000 Americans lived in Indonesia, mostly in Jakarta.
``It's kind of exciting,'' said 18-year-old Clayton Carmack, who watched from his bedroom window Thursday as flames and black smoke from burning homes and businesses filled the skyline.
``But it's probably best to watch it from a TV,'' he said.