Thousands feared dead after Indonesia tsunami

By | October 1, 2018

There are fears thousands may have been killed by an earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia after the disaster’s death toll rose to 832.

The country’s disaster mitigation agency warned the figure could climb higher as the affected area on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi is bigger than initially thought.

Many people were reported trapped in the rubble of buildings brought down in the 7.5 magnitude earthquake which struck on Friday and triggered tsunami waves as high as six metres (20 feet).

Almost all the deaths have been recorded in the coastal city of Palu, where a mass burial will be held.

Damage from an earthquake and tsunami can be seen in Palu
Image: Many have been left homeless by the disaster

“The [death toll] is believed to be still increasing since many bodies were still under the wreckage while many have not able to be reached,” agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

He added that access to towns of Donggala, Sigi and Boutong is limited and there are no comprehensive reports from those areas.

It comes after Indonesian vice president Jusuf Kalla warned that “thousands” may have died in the disaster.

An aerial view of part of the city destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami in Palu
Image: An aerial view of Palu, which was struck by the tsunami
Hundreds killed by tsunami
Image: Hospitals have been overwhelmed with patients and many are being treated outside

Hundreds of stricken people have been looting supermarkets and petrol stations amid a shortage of water, food and fuel.

Risa Kusuma, a 35-year-old mother comforting her feverish baby boy at an evacuation centre in Palu, said: “Every minute an ambulance brings in bodies.

“Clean water is scarce. The mini-markets are looted everywhere.”

People wear masks as they attempt to identify the bodies of their relatives at the compounds of a police hospital
Image: People wear masks as they attempt to identify the bodies of their relatives
An aerial view shows bridge damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in Palu
Image: A coastal bridge in Palu ripped apart by the tsunami

Residents were seen scrambling over broken glass and through broken-down barricades at a supermarket in Palu, before making off with plastic bin bags full of goods including nappies, crisps and gas canisters.

One man shouted: “There has been no aid, we need to eat. We don’t have any other choice, we must get food.”

Rescuers have been trying to reach trapped victims in collapsed buildings after the tsunami swept away buildings with massive waves.

A street full of debris after an earthquake and tsunami hit Palu, on Sulawesi island
Image: The tsunami left a trail of destruction in Palu

People could be heard calling out from the eight-story Roa-Roa Hotel which toppled in the disaster.

“We managed to pull out a woman alive from the Hotel Roa-Roa last night,” said Muhammad Syaugi, head of the national search and rescue agency. “We even heard people calling for help there yesterday.”

The previous official death toll from the earthquake and tsunami was reported at 405, with all fatalities coming from Palu.

But agency spokesman Mr Nugroho said the number was expected to rise once rescuers reached surrounding coastal areas.

Search and rescue workers help rescue a person trapped in rubble following the disaster
Image: Search and rescue workers help rescue a person trapped in rubble following the disaster

Aid and supplies are being sent to badly affected areas in military and commercial aircraft.

TV footage showed images of destroyed homes and buildings in Donggala and areas that were once land now inundated with water.

Residents have been seen returning to their destroyed homes and trying to salvage anything they could find.

Mr Nugroho previously said concerns were growing for the whereabouts of “tens to hundreds” of people who attended a beach festival in Palu when the tsunami struck at dusk on Friday.

A damaged car following the tsunami and earthquake in Palu
Image: Thousands are feared dead after the disaster

A Facebook page was created by worried relatives who posted pictures of missing family members in the hope of finding them alive.

The disaster agency said around 61 foreigners were in Palu when the quake struck, with most accounted for and safe.

Three French nationals and a South Korean have not been accounted for however.

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Indonesian president Joko Widodo is set to visit the area later on Sunday.

Hospitals have been overwhelmed by the influx of those injured, with many people being treated outside.

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