Officials scramble to rescue survivors as toll crosses 800

Howard TerryOct 02, 2018

Stricken areas of Indonesia's Sulawesi island were in chaos today as the authorities struggled to get aid and shelter to tens of thousands of survivors of Friday's natural disaster and tsunami, which destroyed buildings, inundated towns and sprang 1,200 convicts from prison.

The confirmed toll of 832 dead looked certain to rise as rescuers slowly reached devastated outlying communities hit on Friday by the 7.5 magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami waves as high as six metres (20 feet). Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesperson for the disaster agency (BNBP) will be proving an official update at 1pm on Monday.

Many people were believed trapped under shattered houses in Palu's Balaroa neighbourhood, where the quake caused the ground to heave up and down violently, said disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. "We monitored the situation for three hours but did not detect any unusual activity in the oceanic buoys and sea level tide gauges", said director S.S.C. Shenoi.

The rescue effort has... Hundreds of people gathered at the wrecked eight-storey Tatura Mall searching for loved ones.

The strong 7.5-magnitude quake struck Friday, toppling buildings and sending walls of seawater crashing into Palu, a city of about 350,000.

In addition to travel and communication problems, relief agencies say their response to the latest crisis is somewhat limited by the fact that many staff members remain deployed to Lombok - an island hundreds of miles to the south of Sulawesi, where a 6.9 magnitude quake struck one month ago.

Some survivors have been looting shops for food, water and fuel, telling reporters they have run out of supplies.

A search and rescue team had reached Donggala but were uncontactable as electricity and communications were still cut off in the region, Sutopo said.

The city of Palu, which sits at the center of a bay in the northwestern side of Central Sulawesi, was hit the worst and had the greatest number of deaths.

Indonesia's Metro TV on Sunday broadcast aerial footage from a coastal community in Donggala, close to the epicentre of the quake. Further, the warning underestimated the size of the waves, according to the BBC.

In the residential area of Patobo, there are fears that many could have been killed when 744 homes were buried in mud, Nugroho said Monday.

Indonesia lies on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where tectonic plates collide and numerous world's volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur. "This is for sure a matter of life and death for the prisoners", she said. A majority of Indonesians are Muslim, and burials customarily take place within one day. "I couldn't hold anything", he said. He appealed for help in recovering the bodies buried in collapsed houses.

Five foreigners - three French, one South Korean and one Malaysian - were among the missing.

Almost 50,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Palu alone, Nugroho said, and hospitals were overwhelmed.

As of Sunday, death toll from the disaster rose to 832.

Videos posted to social media also captured the scene as the quake struck, with people scrambling away from large cracks in the ground as buildings either collapsed or simply slid away - their foundations overcome by the earth's liquefaction.

People suffering from a lack of food and supplies were also becoming more desperate.

The airport has resumed only some commercial flights.

One man told CNN Monday he had been waiting there two days. "We want to wait for relatives to pick them up, but we can't wait any longer".

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