Indonesia tsunami: death toll rises to 844 as rescuers struggle to get to victims – live

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Indonesia tsunami: death toll rises to 844 as rescuers struggle to get to victims – live” was written by Matthew Weaver (now) and Hannah Ellis-Petersen (earlier), for theguardian.com on Monday 1st October 2018 17.18 Asia/Kolkata

Here’s video of the scenes at Palu airport as thousands of people try to get a flight out.

 

A crowd of people gather at the airport in Palu in the hope of fleeing
A crowd of people gather at the airport in Palu in the hope of fleeing
Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Local television said around 3,000 residents had flocked to the Palu airport trying to get out, AP reports.

Footage showed some people screaming in anger because they were not able to board departing military aircraft. The airport has resumed only some commercial flights.

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

In his press conference disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said conditions in the Petobo neighbuorhood of Palu city were particularly bad because the quake caused a phenomenon called liquefaction, AP reports.

This occurs when loose water-filled soil near the surface loses its strength and collapses.

Nugroho said authorities estimate that “there are still hundreds of victims buried in mud” in the area.

Villagers who pulled out loved ones alive and dead over the weekend expressed frustration that rescue teams had only reached Petobo on Monday.

On Sunday Sutopo tweeted terrifying video purporting to show liquefaction taking place in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Other videos claiming to the show the phenomenon have also emerged.

Updated

Lian Gogali, one of the first aid workers to reach the devastated district of Donggala north of Palu, says the homes of hundreds of people have been destroyed.

She tweeted an image of an area covered in debris that she said was home to 600 families.

Reuters said she reached the area by motorcycle.

She told the agency that hundreds of people are facing a lack of food and medicine were trying to get out, but evacuation teams had yet to arrive and roads were blocked.

Members of the Indonesian Red Cross carry the body of a tsunami victim from a collapsed house at Talise beach in Palu, central Sulawesi, Indonesia
Members of the Indonesian Red Cross carry the body of a tsunami victim from a collapsed house at Talise beach in Palu, central Sulawesi, Indonesia
Photograph: Mast Irham/EPA

Aid supplies that have reached the stricken areas are a “drop in the bucket” of what’s required, the International Federation of the Red Cross has warned.

Jan Gelfand, head of the IFRC’s country cluster support office in Jakarta, said the agency now had 178 aid workers on the ground.

Speaking to the the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme he said:

We have field kitchens we have things coming in by sea. We have 25 water tankers coming in, but this is a drop in the bucket to what the need is.

So we are having to find very creative ways to get there. We don’t even know what some of the damage is in the areas that are more remote. Our teams took 12 to 15 hours to get in and so it is going to be a while before even the assessment is done before we get a true picture of the situation.

We are doing what we can. Things are opening up a little bit more but the need is great. The event is very serious and this is a longterm process.

A man takes a photo of a car lifted into the air with his mobile phone following a massive earthquake and tsunami at Talise beach in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia
A man takes a photo of a car lifted into the air with his mobile phone following a massive earthquake and tsunami at Talise beach in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia
Photograph: Tatan Syuflana/AP

Updated

As Hannah mentioned earlier fuel shortages are hampering rescue efforts.

Queues at petrol stations on the approaches to Palu stretch for kilometres, according to Reuters.

Survivors line up at a service station to get gasoline in Palu
Survivors line up at a service station to get gasoline in Palu
Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Indonesian police carry the body of a tsunami victim during a mass burial in Palu, Central Sulawesi
Indonesian police carry the body of a tsunami victim during a mass burial in Palu, Central Sulawesi
Photograph: Tatan Syuflana/AP

Distressing images and descriptions have emerged of victims in body bags being buried in a mass grave in Poboya in the hills above Palu.

AFP has this:

At Poboya – in the hills above the devastated seaside city of Palu – volunteers began to fill a vast grave with the dead, with instructions to prepare for 1,300 victims to be laid to rest.

Authorities are desperate to stave off any disease outbreak caused by decomposing bodies, some now are riddled with maggots.

Three trucks arrived stacked with corpses wrapped in orange, yellow and black bags, an AFP reporter on the scene saw. One-by-one they were dragged into the grave as excavators poured soil on top.

AP quoted local army commander Tiopan Aritonang as saying that 545 bodies for the grave would be brought from one hospital alone. It added:

The trench dug in Palu was 10 meters by 100 meters (33 feet by 330 feet) and can be enlarged if needed, said Willem Rampangilei, chief of Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

“This must be done as soon as possible for health and religious reasons,” he said. Indonesia is majority Muslim, and religious custom calls for burials soon after death, typically within one day.

Local military spokesman Mohammad Thorir said the area adjacent to a public cemetery can hold 1,000 bodies. All of the victims, coming from local hospitals, have been photographed to help families locate where their relatives were buried. Video footage showed residents walking from body bag to body bag, opening the tops to check to see if they could identify faces.

A view of a mass grave for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia
A view of a mass grave for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia
Photograph: Antara Foto/Reuters

What we know so far

  • The death toll has risen to 844. However, this still doesn’t account for some of the worst hit areas in the region, such as the city of Donggala and the Balaroa region, where an entire housing estate home to 900 people sunk into the ground. Rescue teams have not been able to reach these areas yet to begin evacuations and body counts.
  • Some 600 people have been hospitalised and more than 48,000 have been displaced.
  • Electricity is still down in the affected region, hampering rescue efforts, and there is a major shortage of fuel.
  • Teams began work burying the bodies in mass graves in the hills above Palu to prevent the spread of disease. A 100-metre long grave has been dug in preparation for 1,000 bodies.
  • Palu airport will be open for a single flight a day to another area of Sulawesi.
  • 1,425 prisoners are now missing from local jails.

Updated

The official death toll did not increase as much as some had expected, mainly because some of the worst hit areas have still yet to be accessed by rescuers. The heavy machinery needed to lift up and uncover bodies from the rubble is also only just arriving into the area.

Of the 844 casualties, most recorded deaths were in the city of Palu- 821 people- which is the area most rescue teams are currently located. In the Parigi Moutong region 12 people have died and in Donggala the death toll still stands at 11. A total of 744 bodies have been identified.

The press conference has now ended. We will post a summary of the updates shortly

One of the points most severely affected by the earthquake was Balaroa National Park in Palu. When the earthquake struck, the land, which was heavily occupied, moved up and then sank down by 5 metres, said Sutopo.

“We do not know how many victims have been buried here, we estimate in the hundreds,” he added.

The bodies of the six-man paragliding team who had been staying at a hotel in Palu for a local competition have not been found, said Sutopo

Sutopo said that the damage and death at Talise beach, in Palu, was “severe”. Hundreds had been gathered on the beach for the Nomini music festival, when the tsunami wave hit. Sutopo said many bodies had been found amongst the debris but they were still waiting on an official death toll from the area.

Sutopo contradicted earlier reports that the government had given the residents of Palu permission to loot food from the shops.

“The Minister of Home Affairs did not legalise looting in areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Central Sulawesi,” he said.

“Hundreds of residents have queued up outside the airport, because they are traumatized so they wanted to leave Palu,” said Sutopo.

The new flight schedule will only be one flight a day, between Palu and Makassar, on an aircraft which seats 70 people. Departures will approximately be at 7-9 am.

Updated

Palu airport will be re-opened for limited flights.

Updated

Sutopo said evacuation of Balaroa, an area where hundreds lived in a housing complex which sank five mtres into the ground during the earthquake, was proving difficult for rescue teams because of lack of access.

“In the Patobo it is estimated that hundreds of victims have died from being buried in mud,” he added

Updated

144 foreign nationals who were in Palu and Donggala during the earthquake and tsunami, according to Sutopo.

Updated

Sutopo emphasised that the disaster agency still had “limited data, information and access” to affected areas. “The electricity and communication conditions for Palu, Donggala, Sigi and Parigi Moutong are also paralysed,” he said.

“Heavy equipment has arrived” said Sutopo, “but a large amount is needed to evacuate victims hit by debris and buried in mud.”

Sutopo has arrived and is now addressing journalists with updates. The official death toll has risen only slightly, to 844.

Updated

It appears that the scheduled press conference with Sutopo has been delayed. More information when we have it.

Rescue teams were still working on Monday to pull 15-year-old Nurul out of the ruins of the Balaroa National Housing building in Palu. Most of her body has been trapped in deep mud and concrete for 48 hours, with only her head visible. The body of her mother, Risni, who died in the collapse, is trapped next to her.

Speaking to Tirto, Yusuf, Nurul’s father who has sat by her side since he found her alive, said: ““Everything went fast. The land collapsed instantly.”

He added: “I found my daughter was buried under the ruins and puddle,”

90 of their neighbours who also lived in the building are still reported missing.

Pope Francis led a prayer on Sunday at the Vatican for the earthquake victims, expressing his “nearness to the people on the island of Sulawesi”.

“I pray for the deceased – which are unfortunately numerous – for the wounded, and for those who have lost their homes and employment. May the Lord console them and sustain the efforts of those who are taking part in the relief efforts,” he said.

The flow of aid into the worst-hit areas continues to face obstacles due to destroyed roads and the slow decision by the Indonesian government to accept foreign assistance.

“No aid has arrived. We have lost everything,” one resident told the BBC.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesperson for the disaster agency (BNBP), will be giving an update on the disaster and death toll at around 1:30pm Jakarta time. Stay tuned for live updates.

The death toll is expected to increase sharply, as there were certain hard-hit areas rescue teams could only reach by Sunday night. The official number of casualties from the city of Donggala and surrounding villages has yet to be announced.

Updated

According to reports by AFP, in Poboya – in the hills above Palu – volunteers have been digging a 100 metre-long grave to bury the dead. The mass grave was originally said to be for only 300 bodies but instructions have been given to prepare for 1,300 victims to be laid to rest.

The official death toll stands at 832 and this is a further indicator that the number of casualties has risen overnight. An update is due at 1:30pm.

Local military spokesman Mohammad Thorir said the area adjacent to a public cemetery on a hill can hold as many as 1,000 bodies. All of the victims, coming from local hospitals, have been photographed to help families locate where their relatives were buried.

Updated

Footage has emerged of the devastation in Donggala, which was one of the worst hit areas by the earthquake and tsunami. Homes lie mangled, the tarmac of the road has been so uprooted it sits on top of rooftops and cars have been thrown upside down

 

According to the Director General of Corrections, Sri Puguh Budi Utami, the structural damage done to prisons by the earthquake allowed for a massive prison break across the area. 1,425 prisoners are now missing from jails.

In Palu prison, which previously had 581 inmates, there are now only 66 left, and in Palu detention centre, which had 463 prisoners, only 53 remained in custody on Monday

Updated

One of the biggest issues hindering rescue efforts is the lack of fuel in the area. It is estimated it will take three days to restore electricity to Palu and in the meantime, generators- powered by fuel- are essential.

“The supply of fuel, (given) current circumstances, is very limited. The lack of fuel has caused mobile electricity generator units, vehicles and water pumps to remain idle,” said Sutopo.

Trucks carrying petrol were driven from Poso, a four-hour drive away, to Palu overnight under military escort. In Poso, miles-long queues began to build up at petrol stations

This video from the Indonesian Red Cross shows how the coastal town of Donggala was decimated by the force of the tsunami. Barely any houses left standing, and people picking through the ruins of their lives

The force of the earthquake smashed homes and tower blocks to smithereens, mangled a metal bridge, ripped the concrete walls off shopping malls and reduced roads to dust and rubble. Here is a gallery illustrating the scale of the devastation on the coast of Sulawesi:

On the ground in Palu, people continue to flock to the army hospital, where the corpses are being to be brought for identification, as they desperately look for their loved ones.

Some are posting on social media in an attempt to locate missing friends and relatives. One Facebook group had almost 10,000 members by Monday and was filled with photographs and pleas for information and even instructions should people recognise their family members among the dead. “If someone locates her dead body, please do not bring her to the mass grave because we will pick her up,” said one Facebook post

Others took to twitter, such as a post below where a woman was looking for information about her brother Syifak, who was last seen in Palu on Friday evening.

Updated

People survey the damage outside a flooded shopping mall in Palu
People survey the damage outside a flooded shopping mall in Palu
Photograph: Tatan Syuflana/AP
An aerial view shows the earthquake and tsunami in Palu
An aerial view shows the earthquake and tsunami in Palu
Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images
This aerial photo shows people driving past a washed up boat and collapsed buildings in Palu
This aerial photo shows people driving past a washed up boat and collapsed buildings in Palu
Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Despite the massive scale of the devastation, Vice President Jusuf Kalla has said the government had not deemed the earthquake to be “a national disaster” because the Central Sulawesi regional government is still functional.

He told Kompas that the situation was different from the Aceh tsunami in 2004. “Aceh’s government was paralyzed. [In Palu] the governor is still there, the regent is still there, is still running,” said Kalla, who is also the Chairman of the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI),

What we know so far

  • The death toll of the earthquake and tsunami currently stands at 832, but is expected to rise sharply again today. Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesperson for the disaster agency (BNBP) will be proving an official update at 1pm
  • A 14-day state of emergency has been declared in Sulawesi
  • In some of the smaller villages and subdistricts around Palu, it is feared entire communities of up to 2000 people have been killed after mudslides submerged and crushed their homes.
  • In Palu, authorities are preparing a large mass grave for the burial of the bodies which have been piling up over the weekend. The grave, which will be 10 metres by 100 metres, is being dug for 300 victims and can be enlarged if needed. According to Sutopo, this is a temporary measure to stop disease spreading
  • Indonesia has confirmed it will accept international assistance for the disaster, and put out calls for help. Australia and Thailand have already offered support
  • Heavy machinery needed to move rubble has still not reached the area, so search and rescue efforts are being done primarily by hand
  • Efforts continued to save up to 40 people trapped in Palu’s Roa Roa hotel, where victims could still be heard screaming from the rubble on Monday morning. Only one survivor has been pulled out alive.
  • Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency has said they ended the tsunami warning for Sulawesi after the third wave had hit the shore of Palu, not before as some had alleged
  • Some telecommunications had been restored to the area but there continues to be no power in Palu

Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) is standing by their decision to end the tsunami warning during the first hours of the earthquake. The agency has come under fire for removing the warning just 34 minutes after the earthquake hit.

Speaking to the Jakarta Post, BMKG chairwoman Dwikorita Karnawati said the warning was removed after the third and final tsunami wave had hit the coast of Palu, not before.

“According to our analysis, three waves hit Palu’s beach around dusk, with the third one and the highest sweeping away houses and kiosks. The waves hit the beach within a span of 2.5 minutes,” Dwikorita said to the Jakarta Post. She said the tsunami alert ended at 6:37 p.m., minutes after the third wave hit land.

Indonesian president Joko Widodo last night authorised the country to begin accepting international aid for the disaster, news which will come as a relief to aid workers on the ground who expressed frustration yesterday that the earthquake had been classed as only a “province level disaster”, meaning international funding and supplies were blocked.

Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison released a statement pledging support. “As a close neighbour, Australia stands ready to support government of Indonesia response efforts, if required,” said the joint statement.

Updated

With bodies building up in Palu at an unmanageable rate, Sutopo confirmed on Sunday that once identified, the corpses would be buried in a mass grave as a temporary measure and given “proper burials” later.

Tweeting this morning, he released images of the inspection of Paboya public cemetery, where the mass burials will begin today. “The burials will be carried out immediately due to public health concerns,” he said.

Updated

It is feared that around 2,000 people in the Petobo subdistrict in South Palu have died after being caught up in a fatal mudflow caused by the tsunami, their homes washed away entirely. Speaking to the Jakarta Post, one local resident said the mud had been “rolling in like waves”.

Another subdistrict in West Palu district appeared to have sunk into the ground, with thousands also feared dead.

Updated

Video footage from Palu shows terrified families fleeing their homes as the earthquake caused “liquification”, when the surface of the earth moves like liquid, making buildings topple.

Updated

Residents queue to board a Hercules aircraft belonging to the Indonesian Air Force, as they are being evacuated from Palu
Residents queue to board a Hercules aircraft belonging to the Indonesian Air Force, as they are being evacuated from Palu
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Indonesian rescuers work on the collapsed hotel Roa Roa as they try to find survivors in Palu
Indonesian rescuers work on the collapsed hotel Roa Roa as they try to find survivors in Palu
Photograph: Mast Irham/EPA

Sulawesi island

Sulawesi, the world’s 11th largest island, is located east of Borneo, comprising of several long peninsulas extending from a mountainous centre. It is popular with tourists for its coral reefs and dive sites, including the Wakatobi Islands in Southeast Sulawesi and Bunaken Island at the northern tip of Sulawesi.

Palu city is the capital of the province of Central Sulawesi and lies at the head of the long, narrow Palu Bay. Donggala is a regency along the coast of Central Sulawesi. The capital of Donggala is Banawa, normally about a 30-minute drive north from Palu. More than 300,000 people live in Donggala.

Palu, also home to 300,000 people, is considered an emerging tourist destination.

Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on earth. It lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide and many of the world’s volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.

Many have therefore questioned why a more effective tsunami warning system was not in place in Sulawesi. It has emerged that there were plans to install an early warning system in the area, after the 2004 tsunami which killed almost 250,000 people. However, intergovernmental disagreements meant the project has still not been completed.

“To me this is a tragedy for science, even more so a tragedy for the Indonesian people as the residents of Sulawesi are discovering right now,” said Louise Comfort, a University of Pittsburgh expert in disaster management who worked on the early warning system.

Text messages that were supposed to warn people in Palu of the possibility of a tsunami also did not go out as planned because telecommunications went down immediately after the earthquake

Updated

Over 1,400 survivors of the earthquake and tsunami have been evacuated to Makassar, South Sulawesi, since Saturday, according to the Jakarta Post. They were transported by a C-130 Hercules military aircraft.

One survivor, Mesda, 40, told the Jakarta Post that she would continue her journey to Manado, North Sulawesi. “Our home was destroyed. We have nowhere to live,” she said.

Meanwhile, with telecommunications still down, hundreds of people were desperately waiting at the Makassar air base, looking for an opportunity to fly to Palu with the rescue teams, to locate their family members caught up in the disaster.

Updated

Indonesian president Joko Widodo visited Palu yesterday to inspect the devastation. According to Sutopo, his presidential directives were:

  • prioritize evacuation of victims
  • heavy equipment immediately sent
  • logistical assistance immediately sent with special aircraft
  • emergency handling to be expedited.

Power generators were flown to Palu this morning as there is still no electricity in the area after pylons and power stations were destroyed and uprooted by the earthquake

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, left, talks with tsunami survivors in a temporary shelter in Palu
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, left, talks with tsunami survivors in a temporary shelter in Palu

Updated

On Sunday, rescue efforts in Palu had focused on the Roa Roa hotel, which collapsed entirely with an estimated 50 people trapped inside.

Reports of voices heard screaming for help were still reportedly heard on Monday morning, with around 30 to 40 people still thought to be in the ruins.

Updated

Indonesian rescuers try to free a 15-year-old earthquake survivor, Nurul Istikhomah from the flooded ruins of a collapsed house in Palu
Indonesian rescuers try to free a 15-year-old earthquake survivor, Nurul Istikhomah from the flooded ruins of a collapsed house in Palu
Photograph: Arimacs Wilander/EPA
An overview of an earthquake devastated residential area in Palu
An overview of an earthquake devastated residential area in Palu
Photograph: Arimacs Wilander/EPA
Family members carry the body of a relative to the compounds of a police hospital in Palu
Family members carry the body of a relative to the compounds of a police hospital in Palu
Photograph: Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images
Indonesian President Joko Widodo looks at the damage following earthquakes and a tsunami in Palu)
Indonesian President Joko Widodo looks at the damage following earthquakes and a tsunami in Palu)
Photograph: Agus Suparto/AP

The efforts to find survivors among the wreckage of buildings has been slow work, with teams lacking heavy machinery needed to move the rubble. Most rescue teams were working by hand.

Sutopo said the disaster agency rescue teams working on Sunday had pulled 13 bodies and two survivors from the wreckage of Palu city’s malls and hotels.

The death toll from the 7.5 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday currently stands at 832, but is expected to rise sharply again today.

Rescue teams were still attempting to reach some of the worst hit areas, such as Donggala, yesterday and so the full extent of the devastation in unknown. In the city of Palu, where rescue efforts were focused on Sunday, efforts began to identify the hundreds of bodies, many which had been collected from along the beaches, and would be temporarily buried in mass graves.

Read our latest story here.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesperson for the disaster agency (BNBP), will once again address journalists at a press conference at 1pm Jakarta time with an update on the growing death toll and rescue efforts. Stay tuned for updates.

Updated

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Indonesia tsunami: death toll rises to 844 as rescuers struggle to get to victims - live - NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE

Rajesh Ahuja

I am a veteran journalist based in Chandigarh India.I joined the profession in June 1982 and worked as a Staff Reporter with the National Herald at Delhi till June 1986. I joined The Hindu at Delhi in 1986 as a Staff Reporter and was promoted as Special Correspondent in 1993 and transferred to Chandigarh. I left The Hindu in September 2012 and launched my own newspaper ventures including this news portal and a weekly newspaper NORTH INDIA KALEIDOSCOPE (currently temporarily suspended).