Indonesia earthquake and tsunami: Desperate search for survivors
[October 01 2018]
A picture of
large-scale destruction is
emerging in and around the
Indonesian city of Palu after an
earthquake and tsunami struck on
At least 832 people are confirmed to have died but
that figure is expected to rise sharply as more remote areas are
The authorities have said they will begin burying
victims in mass graves, fearing disease could begin to spread.
Dozens of people are thought to be trapped alive under
In Palu, rescuers are awaiting heavy machinery to
search the ruins of a hotel and a shopping centre as aftershocks made it
unsafe for them to go in.
"Communication is limited, heavy machinery is
limited... it's not enough for the numbers of buildings that collapsed,"
said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster
A tsunami warning had been issued after the
magnitude-7.5 earthquake hit on Friday, but it is unclear whether it was
still in place when the waves hit.
Videos show people screaming as 6m-high waves power
over the beach - where a festival was being set-up - sweeping up
everything in their path.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited the region to
urge a "day and night" effort to rescue survivors.
Mr Widodo has also agreed to accept international help
for disaster response and relief, Thomas Lembong, the head of the
Indonesian investment board said on Twitter on Monday.
Meanwhile, Indonesia's justice ministry is reporting
that 1,200 convicts escaped from three different detention facilities in
the Sulawesi region following the earthquake and tsunami.
Patients and corpses side by side
By Rebecca Henschke, BBC News, Palu
Lying on a stretcher in the dark outside the Mamboro
health clinic in Palu is a five-year-old girl with a broken leg. She was
found alone, Doctor Sasono tells me. "We don't know where her family is
and she doesn't remember where they live." His clinic has no power and
is running out of medical supplies.
A few metres from her stretcher bed are rows of bodies
in bags. The smell of decomposition fills the air. Dr Sasono says they
will be buried in mass graves to stop the spread of diseases: "They are
starting to smell. We want to wait for relatives to pick them up, but we
can't wait any longer."
Rows of rubble lie all along the shoreline where
vibrant fishing villages once stood.
People's possessions lie smashed together, with cars
and boats tossed around by the massive waves. Amid the rubble are tents
where families are sleeping out in the open.
How difficult is the rescue work?
Blocked roads, a damaged airport and broken
telecommunications have made it difficult to bring help into the
affected area, and impossible to contact more remote regions.
Roads crumbled as the ground underneath gave way
"We don't know for sure what is the impact," said Mr
Local media report that mobile phone signals have been
detected in the rubble of the shopping mall in Palu, and shouts have
been heard under the debris of the Roa Roa Hotel.
Dozens of people were known to be inside the Roa Roa
One volunteer, Thalib Bawano, told AFP news agency
that three people had been rescued from the hotel rubble, where more
than 50 people may be trapped.
"We also heard voices at several points, including a
child," he said.
"They were asking for help, but they are still there
till now. We gave them motivation... so they can have spirit because
they are trapped between life and death."
"We gave them water and food but that's not what they
wanted. They wanted to get out. 'We want to get out, out, out. Help!
Help!' they kept screaming. That's what we heard. Some were just
What are the other challenges?
In Palu, people have been sleeping in the open, wary
of returning to their homes, even if they are still intact.
With hospitals damaged, injured people have been
treated in the open and at least one military field hospital has been
The military has taken over the airport to fly aid in,
and injured people and other evacuees out.
"What you'll see, you know, as the days go by and
people don't have access to adequate hygiene supplies, shelter, you'll
see the situation deteriorate if they don't get that access so, we've
sent shelter kits," Tom Howells, programme director for Save The
Children, said on Sunday.
Military aircraft have been evacuating some of the
A shattered mosque in Palu
With supplies limited, people have been raiding
damaged shops for food, water and medicine.
"We don't have any other choice, we must get food,"
one man told AFP.
Meanwhile mass graves are being dug, one of them for
up to 300 bodies.
Why was the tsunami so destructive?
The 7.5-magnitude quake occurred at a depth of 10km
(6.2 miles) just off the central island of Sulawesi at 18:03 (10:03 GMT)
on Friday, setting off a tsunami, US monitors say.
The earthquake was powerful but shallow and with more
lateral than vertical movement, not typically the kind of tremor that
sets off tsunamis.
Vice-President Jusuf Kalla has said the final death
toll could be in the thousands while the Red Cross estimates that more
than 1.6 million people have been affected.
A sophisticated tsunami warning system was put in
place across the whole Pacific region after the 2004 disaster, which
killed nearly a quarter of a million people.
It remains unclear why it was not effective this time,
but Mr Nugroho said Indonesia's part of the network has suffered from a
lack of funding.
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