Indonesia Weighs Foreign Aid Offers; Resists Declaring National Disaster in C. Sulawesi

Posted October 02, 2018

A mass burial of quake and tsunami victims began in a hard-hit city Monday as the need for heavy equipment to dig for survivors of the disaster that struck a central Indonesian island grows increasingly desperate.

Emergency crews are still trying to find victims of an natural disaster and tsunami that struck Indonesia's island of Sulawesi, killing at least 1,200 people, according to local media citing government officials.

Scientists at the Hyderabad-based Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), which runs the state-of-the-art Indian Tsunami Early Warning System (ITEWS), detected the natural disaster on the Pacific Ocean bed at 3.30 p.m. (IST) on September 28, and immediately issued an alert to the Indian Oceanic community, including Indonesia, and worldwide networks.

Others have centred their search around open-air morgues, where the dead lay in the baking sun - waiting to be claimed, waiting to be named.

President Joko Widodo visited Palu on Sunday, inspecting the large-scale damage and consoling survivors.

At least 832 people were confirmed dead as of Sunday evening, Indonesia's disaster agency said, with almost all of those from Palu. The quake and tsunami collapsed buildings and caused other severe damage in Palu and nearby communities.

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Overwhelmed by the sheer number of bodies to deal with, local and military officials arranged for a mass burial site for the victims, according to Indonesian disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, who says officials feared a prolonged delay could create a new health crisis.

The 34 bodies were found in Sigi Biromaru, just outside Palu, which was struck by a 7.5 magnitude natural disaster and a tsunami on Friday. Almost 50,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Palu alone, Nugroho said. This is an increase of 12 people since Sunday, however, the areas of Donggala, Sigi and Parigi Moutong have yet to be fully assessed.

The toll of 832 is expected to rise as areas inaccessible since the disaster are reached.

"The prison no longer has enough food", Utami said.

Across Palu, blocked roads, a damaged airport and broken telecommunications have made it hard to bring help into the affected area, and impossible to contact more remote regions.

Relief agencies said more than 300,000 people were thought to be homeless, many sleeping in the streets of Palu as aftershocks rattled the region.

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Three French nationals and a South Korean, who may have been staying at a flattened hotel, had not yet been accounted for, it added. The main airport at Palu was damaged, landslides had cut off key roads while "power is out nearly everywhere", she added.

A double-arched yellow bridge had collapsed, its ribs twisted as cars bobbed in the water below.

Many people had to sleep on the side of the road and patients were treated in open spaces.

Four districts with a combined population of about 1.4 million have been completely cut off from communications.

The wave hit Palu on Friday evening as Muslim worshippers were gathering for evening prayers in local mosques.

A massive 2004 quake triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 throughout the region, including 168,000 in Indonesia.

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It lies on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide and numerous world's volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.