Indonesia earthquake: death toll surges, search for survivors continues

October 1, 2018

TEHRAN - Less than two months after a massive earthquake struck Indonesia’s Lombok island, another devastating quake hit the Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province on Friday.

The death toll in the devastating tsunami and earthquake in the island nation reached 844 on Monday, according to Indonesian authorities, who have warned that the toll might run into thousands as rescuers try to reach more affected areas.

A 7.5 magnitude earthquake led to an unexpected tsunami in the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday, leaving trials of death and destruction.

Most of the confirmed deaths are from the city of Palu. Authorities said that "tens to hundreds" of people were by the ocean in Palu for a beach festival when the tsunami struck on Friday.

But rescuers worry that they could find more victims of the disaster in the Donggala region, which is closer to the epicenter of the earthquake. A region of 300,000 people has been cut off from communications since Friday.

Indonesian disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said earlier that bodies of some victims were found trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings, adding that hundreds more were injured and many were missing, according to Reuters.
Mass graves have been dug to bury the victims even as the desperate search for survivors continues.

“The tsunami didn't come by itself, it dragged cars, logs, houses, it hit everything on land,” Nugroho told reporters. He tweeted pictures of the disaster and said that Indonesia's military has been mobilized to assist search and rescue teams.

One video which has been widely shared on social media shows the enormity of tragedy. It shows a man shouting and warning people alongside the beach, who remain oblivious to a huge approaching wave.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who visited the region, said there are many challenges hampering rescue efforts. “We have to do many things soon, but the condition does not allow us to do so,” he was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.

He later took to Twitter, and posted an emotional tweet. “Grieve for the people of Central Sulawesi, we all grieve together.”

Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the death toll could jump to thousands. The US has called for assistance to the earthquake victims and many countries have already come forward with help and assistance.

Indonesia's meteorological and geophysics agency BMKG had issued a tsunami warning just after the initial quake, warning of potential waves of 0.5 to three meters. But it lifted the warning just over 30 minutes later.

Many critics have accused BMKG of lifting the warning too early, though the agency says the waves hit while the warning was still in force.

BMKG chairwoman Dwikorita Karnawati was quoted saying by Jakarta Post that the decision to end the warning was made after the agency received information about the tsunami, including a field observation made by a BMKG employee in Palu.

Indonesia is prone to earthquakes and the country has been hit by major earthquakes in recent years. The 2004 Indonesian Ocean tsunami, which had waves as high as 100 feet and killed nearly a quarter of a million people, resulted from a 9.1-magnitude megathrust earthquake in Sumatra.

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