Monday, 15 October, 2018

Scale of Indonesian disaster emerges but rescuers hold hope for survivors

Volunteers filling a mass grave were instructed to prepare for a total of 1,300 victims to arrive. * AFP Getty images Volunteers filling a mass grave were instructed to prepare for a total of 1,300 victims to arrive. * AFP Getty images
Andrew Cummings | 02 October, 2018, 08:40

Indonesia's disaster agency says the death toll from the massive quake and tsunami that hit the island of Sulawesi has increased slightly to 844, and almost 50,000 people have been displaced by the disaster.

According to National Dis‌a‌st‌er Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the 7.5-magnitude quake resulted in "soil liquefaction", a phenomenon in which severe shaking from a powerful natural disaster can turn earth into mud.

State logistics agency chief Budi Waseso said it was preparing to send hundreds of tonnes of government rice stocks to areas in Central Sulawesi affected by the disaster.

Friday's magnitude 7.5 quake killed more than 840 people and destroyed thousands of homes, triggering an immediate humanitarian crisis that has left countless residents in desperate need of food, water and fuel.

"There has been no aid, we need to eat".

The Indonesian government has evacuated 114 foreign nationals.

The country's President Joko Widodo (r) visited the island and pledged to rebuild the city.

In a post to Twitter, the disaster agency spokesman also warned residents to be alert to the hoax forecasts of further tsunamis and earthquakes he said were appearing on social media.

"The evacuation is not finished yet, there are many places where the evacuation couldn't be done because of the absence of heavy equipment, but last night equipment started to arrive in Palu", Widodo said.

Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo authorized the acceptance of worldwide help, said disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, adding that generators, heavy equipment, and tents were among the items needed.

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Sulawesi is one of the earthquake-prone archipelago nation's five main islands and is known to sit astride fault lines. Other roads around the city were damaged by the quake or blocked by ensuing landslides. But we could not do anything to help them.

With bodies piling up at medical facilities and concerns rising about disease, authorities in Palu began a mass burial, lining the dead side-by-side in a giant, freshly dug grave that could accommodate hundreds.

"When the wave came, I lost her", he said.

About 3,000 people thronged the airport hoping to get on any flight and officers struggled to keep order.

A 25-year-old woman was found alive on Sunday evening in the ruins of the Roa-Roa Hotel, according to the National Search and Rescue Agency, which released photos of the her lying on a stretcher covered in a blanket.

Novry Wullur, an officer from Indonesia's search and rescue agency, said Nurul Istiharah, 15, managed to survive after being trapped inside her house after it collapsed.

A powerful quake hit the region of Sulawesi on Friday, triggering a huge tsunami and wreaking havoc across communities. Officials had estimated about 50 people could be inside.

The European Union said on Sunday that it has released €1.5 million ($1.7 million) in emergency aid for victims of the quake, while the South Korean Embassy in Jakarta said the country would send aid worth $1 million to the affected areas. "More than 300,000 people are thought to be homeless".

Residents carry their belongings on October 1 after an natural disaster Palu, Sulawesi Island, Indonesia on Friday.

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