Indonesia Buries Dead as Tsunami Toll Crosses 840
Palu (Indonesia): Mass graves were dug on Monday as Indonesia began burying hundreds of people killed by an earthquake and a tsunami that cracked streets, crumbled buildings and swept homes on the island of Sulawesi. At least 844 were confirmed dead and the toll was expected to climb, with heavily populated areas cut off from any assistance. Rescuers, with only rudimentary tools, were racing to find survivors in the debris after disaster struck Indonesia’s Sulawesi island on Friday leading to large-scale destruction and food, water and fuel shortage. Palu, a city of 350,000, was the worst affected and was reduced to ruins. The streets of the city were covered in debris and dead bodies were flung about by the 7.5 magnitude earthquake that triggered tsunami waves up to three metres high. Authorities said that some remote areas were yet to be contacted. A lack of heavy lifting equipment hampered rescuers’ attempts to reach people stuck under collapsed buildings, the BBC reported. He said that an estimated 2.4 million people were affected by the disaster, at least 600 people were hospitalized and over 48,000 were displaced. The current and former mayors of Palu were among the dead. Aid agencies were struggling to get staff into affected areas as the main airport at Palu was damaged, road links were cut due to landslides and power was out almost everywhere, officials said.
People were sleeping in the open, wary of returning to their homes due to aftershocks. Reports say that aid started to reach Palu, but rescuers were still trying to reach Donggala regency, home to over 300,000 people. Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said the final death toll could be in the thousands. Authorities said they started burying the dead in mass graves as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of disease. In the hills above Palu, volunteers filling a mass grave were instructed to prepare for a total of 1,300 victims to arrive, the BBC reported. (IANS)