Death toll rises to 832
PALU, Indonesia — Rescuers in Indonesia were scrambling Sunday to reach trapped victims screaming for help from collapsed buildings, while looters risked entering an unstable shopping mall to grab whatever they could find after a massive earthquake spawned a tsunami that left more than 800 dead.
People could still be heard calling out from the eight-story Roa-Roa Hotel which toppled as Friday’s twin disasters swept through the hard-hit city of Palu on the island of Sulawesi, said Muhammad Syaugi, the head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency.
“I can still hear the voices of the survivors screaming for help while inspecting the compound,” he told local online news portal Detik.com, adding there could be 50 people trapped inside.
Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference Sunday that the death toll had more than doubled to 832, with nearly all of those killed in Palu. He said there were still not comprehensive reports about casualties in surrounding coastal areas.
“The death is believed to be still increasing since many bodies were still under the wreckage, while many have not been reached,” he said.
Aid and supplies were being sent in via military and commercial aircraft, including helicopters, to reach badly affected areas.
The nearby cities of Donggala, the site closest to the earthquake’s epicenter, and Mamuju were also ravaged, but little information was available due to damaged roads and disrupted telecommunications. Footage from MetroTV on Sunday showed images of destroyed houses in Donggala and areas that were once land now inundated with water. Aerial video also showed the battered coastline surrounding Palu.
Looters were stealing Sunday from a badly damaged mall in Palu that was not being guarded. They did not appear to be concerned about their safety,
despite ongoing aftershocks and the structure’s questionable stability. Residents were also seen returning to their destroyed homes, picking through waterlogged belongings, trying to salvage anything they could find.
Nugroho said “tens to hundreds” of people were taking part in a beach festival in Palu when the tsunami struck at dusk on Friday. Their fate was unknown.
Hundreds of people were injured and hospitals, damaged by the magnitude 7.5 quake, were overwhelmed.
Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was set to visit the area later Sunday.
Some of the injured, including Dwi Haris, who suffered a broken back and shoulder, rested outside Palu’s Army Hospital, where patients were being treated outdoors due to continuing strong aftershocks.
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