Scale of Indonesian quake disaster slowly emerges

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

02 October, 2018

An natural disaster victim salvages useable items near a collapsed mosque in Palu, in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi province, on October 1, 2018.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) initially reported that the Filipino was safe but Orcine said they were later informed the building of BoC was destroyed by the massive temblor and tsunami that enabled the detainees to escape.

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. Countries such as Thailand and Australia have already offered to help.

In a desperate attempt to stave off the spread of disease in the devastated region, Indonesia's national disaster mitigation agency authorised the burials to proceed as soon as possible.

Disaster agency spokesman Nugroho told reporters on Sunday none of Indonesia's tsunami buoys, one device used to detect waves, had been operating since 2012. But the heavy toll also reflects insufficient awareness and preparedness, despite Indonesia experiencing 90 per cent of the world's quakes and bearing the brunt of the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, with 170,000 of the nearly 228,000 people killed in 14 countries being Indonesians.

"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.

President Joko Widodo "authorized us to accept global help for urgent disaster-response" the government's head of investment Tom Lembong said, as dozens of aid agencies and NGOs lined up to provide live-saving assistance and the government struggled to come to terms with the sheer scale of the disaster. Almost 50,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Palu alone, Nugroho said.

Two survivors have been plucked from the rubble of the 80-room Hotel Roa-Roa, the search and rescue agency said, and there could still be more alive.

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Other rescuers worked to try to free a 15-year-old girl trapped under concrete in her house in Palu after it collapsed on her family during the natural disaster.

More than 3,000 people gathered at Palu's airport Monday hoping to catch a ride out on a military plane but most were disappointed.

It was the latest natural disaster to hit Indonesia, which is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the "Ring of Fire", an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

Indonesian rescuers evacuate a survivor from under a collapsed restaurant building in Palu on Sunday.

Of particular concern is Donggala, a region of about 300,000 residents north of Palu that is close to the epicenter of the quake, which triggered a tsunami with waves as high as 20 feet. The three areas have a combined population of about 1.4 million.

"My volunteers found 34 bodies ... children who had been doing a Bible camp", she said.

The tsunami was bigger than would have been expected from an quake of the size and type that shook the area. He appealed for help in recovering the bodies buried in collapsed houses. The Sulawesi quakes came after more than 550 people were killed and more than 400,000 were displaced in August in a series of powerful quakes that devastated the Indonesian resort island of Lombok.

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