Latest: Indonesia quake toll jumps to over 1,200 as survivors grow more...

Latest: Indonesia quake toll jumps to over 1,200 as survivors grow more desperate

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Update – 3.50pm:The death toll from an earthquake and tsunami that decimated parts of the central Indonesian island of Sulawesi stands at more than 1,200.

It comes as disaster officials began reaching coastal areas that were cut off by blocked roads and downed communications lines. Officials said hundreds of other people were severely injured and that scores of bodies could still be buried under quicksand-like mud caused by Friday’s magnitude 7.5 earthquake.

More than 25 countries have offered assistance after Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo appealed for international help. Little of that, however, has arrived in the quake zone and increasingly desperate residents grabbed food and fuel from damaged shops and begged for help.

Rescuers have focused much of their attention so far on the biggest affected city, Palu, which has 380,000 people and is easier to reach than other hard-hit areas.

“We feel like we are stepchildren here because all the help is going to Palu,” said Mohamad Taufik, 38, from the town of Donggala, who said five of his relatives are still missing.

“There are many young children here who are hungry and sick, but there is no milk or medicine.”

Along the coast, the tsunami, which reportedly reached as high as six metres (nearly 20ft) in some places, shattered buildings, uprooted concrete and thrust houses and boats tens of metres inland. The death toll for all affected areas reached 1,234, national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in Jakarta, the capital.

He said more people remain trapped in Sigi and Balaroa, meaning the toll is likely to rise.
Mr Nugroho said more aid was being distributed but “we still need more time to take care of all the problems”.

A ship rests on land after it was swept ashore during Friday’s tsunami in Donggala

He said 153 bodies were buried on Monday in a mass grave and that the operation continued today.
A special aircraft carrying 12,000 litres of fuel had arrived and trucks with food were on the way with police escorts to guard against looters.

Mr Nugroho said many petrol stations were inoperable either because of quake damage or from people stealing fuel. The frustration of waiting for days without help boiled over for some.
“Pay attention to Donggala, Mr Jokowi. Pay attention to Donggala,” yelled one resident in a video broadcast on local television, referring to the president.

“There are still a lot of unattended villages here.”
The town’s administrative head, Kasman Lassa, all but gave residents permission to take food – but nothing else – from shops.

“Everyone is hungry and they want to eat after several days of not eating,” Lassa said on local TV.
“We have anticipated it by providing food, rice, but it was not enough. There are many people here. So, on this issue, we cannot pressure them to hold much longer.”

Desperation was visible in Palu as well. Signs propped along roads read We Need Food and We Need Support, while children begged for cash in the streets and long lines of cars snarled traffic as people waited for fuel.

A woman walks past the wreckage of cars

Teams were searching for trapped survivors under destroyed homes and buildings, including a collapsed eight-storey hotel in Palu, but they needed more heavy equipment to clear the rubble. Nearly 62,000 people have been displaced from their homes, Mr Nugroho said.

Many people were believed trapped under shattered houses in the Palu neighbourhood of Balaroa, where the earthquake caused the ground to heave up and down violently.

“I and about 50 other people in Balaroa were able to save ourselves by riding on a mound of soil which was getting higher and higher,” resident Siti Hajat told MetroTV, adding that her house was destroyed.

In Palu’s Petobo neighbourhood, the quake caused loose, wet soil to liquefy, creating a thick, heavy quicksand-type material that resulted in massive damage. Hundreds of victims are still believed to be buried in the mud there. Liquefaction of soil can be compared to walking on a sandy beach.

“If you walk across some wet sand a little back from the water’s edge, it is usually firm walking, even though you might leave footprints,” said Adam Switzer, an expert at the Earth Observatory of Singapore.

A man in Balaroa neighbourhood, which was flattened by Friday’s earthquake

“However, if you stand still and wiggle your toes and feet, you will probably sink a little as the sand around your feet becomes soft and unstable. This is similar to what happens during liquefaction.”

Mr Nugroho said generators, heavy equipment and tents are among the most-needed aid items. The countries that offered assistance include the United States and China, he said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government has given 360,000 dollars to help victims and is in talks with Indonesian authorities about a second round of aid. The initial funds are to go to the Indonesian Red Cross for the most obvious emergency aid needs, such as tarpaulins.

Mr Nugroho said only two of the 122 foreigners in the area remained unaccounted for – one from South Korea and the other from Belgium. Indonesia 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.

A powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people in August, and two moderate quakes near an eastern island on Tuesday reportedly damaged a bridge. The vast archipelago is home to 260 million people on more than 17,000 islands that stretch a distance similar to that between New York and London.

Roads and infrastructure are poor in many areas, making access difficult in the best of conditions.

Update – 9.30am:
Anger among Indonesian quake survivors desperate for supplies. Residents of the town closest to the epicentre of the earthquake which devastated parts of Indonesia’s Sulawesi island have begged the country’s president to help them.

Most of the attention so far has focused on the biggest affected city, Palu, home to 380,000 people, but people in many outlying areas are still waiting for assistance.

The confirmed death toll was raised to 1,234, but national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said at a news conference in Jakarta that casualties in the communities of Sigi and Balaroa have not been counted yet, meaning the figure is likely to rise.

Donggala and other outlying areas have received little assistance largely due to impassable roads.
Local administration head Kasman Lassa said residents should take only food staples from shops.

“Everyone is hungry and they want to eat after several days of not eating,” Mr Lassa said.
“We have anticipated it by providing food, rice, but it was not enough. There are many people here. So, on this issue, we cannot pressure them to hold much longer.”

Desperation was visible everywhere among victims receiving little aid. In Palu, signs propped along roads read “We Need Food” and “We Need Support,” while children begged for cash in the streets and long lines of cars snarled traffic as people waited for fuel.

Teams were searching for trapped survivors under destroyed homes and buildings, including a collapsed eight-storey hotel in the city, but they needed more heavy equipment to clear the rubble. Many people are believed to be trapped under shattered houses in Balaroa, where the earthquake caused the ground to heave up and down violently.

In the Petobo area, the quake caused loose, wet soil to liquefy, creating a heavy mud that resulted in massive damage. “In Petobo, it is estimated that there are still hundreds of victims buried in mud,” Mr Nugroho said.

Residents who found loved ones – alive and dead – over the weekend expressed frustration that it took rescue teams until Monday to reach Petobo.

The magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck at dusk on Friday and generated a tsunami said to have been as high as nearly 20ft in places.

About 3,000 residents flocked to Palu’s airport on Monday, trying to board military aircraft or one of the few commercial flights using the facility only partially operating due to damage. Video showed some of them screaming in anger because they were not able to get on a departing military plane.

“We have not eaten for three days,” one woman said. “We just want to be safe.”

Nearly 50,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Palu alone, Mr Nugroho said, and hospitals were overwhelmed. The Indonesian air force confirmed that a Hercules aircraft carrying an unspecified number of survivors was able to leave Palu for South Sulawesi’s capital of Makassar.

In addition, more than 100 police officers from the capital, Jakarta, were sent to Palu and additional Hercules aircraft carrying soldiers and supplies, including food and water, from east Java were en route, local television reported.

President Joko Widodo authorised the acceptance of international help, with generators, heavy equipment and tents were among the most-needed items. The European Union and about 10 other countries have offered assistance, including the US and China.

Earlier:
Military flight evacuates Indonesian quake victims. One of the first evacuation flights from a quake-devastated region of central Indonesia has landed in East Java.

A C130 military transport aircraft which arrived at a military airport carried dozens of people, including injured victims needing further care and treatment. It left from the city of Palu, where hundreds of people are still waiting to be evacuated.

Andi Wijaya, the airport base commander in East Java, says seven aircraft were ready to evacuate but crews had to be summoned to prepare for the flights.

The situation is increasingly desperate in the severely damaged areas of central Sulawesi island where people are running short of food, fuel and other essentials.

Friday’s magnitude 7.5 earthquake and the tsunami it generated caused at least 840 deaths, but some areas outside Palu have yet to be reached.

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