Indonesia quake, tsunami death toll rises to nearly 1,350 (PHOTOS)
- Casualties expected to rise, experts warn, as rescuers struggle to access damaged areas after 7.5 magnitude earthquake
The death toll from an earthquake and tsunami on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia has climbed to 1,350, according to the country’s disaster management agency, as rescue teams scramble to search for survivors buried in the rubble from the deadly disaster.
Authorities and aid workers struggled to reach the affected areas made inaccessible by damaged infrastructure on Tuesday, four days after the disaster hit Palu, a small city about 1,500-km northeast of the capital, Jakarta, and other parts of Sulawesi Island.
Some remote areas have been largely cut off after Friday’s magnitude 7.5 quake triggered massive tsunami waves, destroying roads and bridges; their losses have yet to be determined.
“The team is racing against time because it’s already D+four,” Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesperson for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, told reporters in Jakarta on Tuesday, referring to four days since the quake.
More than 65,000 homes have been damaged and at least 60,000 people have been displaced and are in need of emergency help, according to the government.
Earlier, President Joko Widodo called for reinforcements in the search for survivors, saying everyone had to be found.
About 1,700 homes in one Palu neighbourhood were swallowed up, with hundreds of people believed buried, the national disaster agency said.
Among those killed in the area were 34 children at a Christian bible study camp, a Red Cross official said.
There was also mounting concern over Donggala, a region of 300,000 people north of Palu and closer to the epicentre, and two other districts – with a combined population of about 1.4 million.
Initial reports from Red Cross rescuers who had reached the outskirts of Donggala district were chilling.
“The situation in the affected areas is nightmarish,” Jan Gelfand, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) office in Jakarta, said in a statement.