The toll from the tsunami that hit Indonesia’s island of Sulawesi on Friday has risen to 832, AFP reported on Sunday, quoting officials. Vice President Jusuf Kalla earlier said the number of casualties could go into thousands as rescue workers were still trying to save people trapped in the debris.
On Friday, tsunami waves as high as six metres followed a 7.5-magnitude earthquake that struck the island.
Willem Rampangilei, head of the National Disaster Management Agency, said that damaged roads were hindering the rescue process, Reuters reported. “It’s estimated that 10,000 refugees are scattered in 50 points in Palu city,” Rampangilei was quoted as saying.
The injured are being treated at makeshift camps.
Relief operations via sea are difficult because of the damaged Palu port. The city of Donggala has been rendered inaccessible because of a broken bridge. “We’re now getting limited communications about the destruction in Palu city, but we have heard nothing from Donggala, and this is extremely worrying,” the Red Cross said in a statement. “There are more than 300,000 people living there. This is already a tragedy, but it could get much worse.”
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said a shortage of heavy equipment was hampering rescue workers’s efforts to recover bodies, AP reported. He said more heavy machinery was likely to arrive on Sunday night. Widodo, who visited Palu city on Sunday, said there were shortages of fuel and food since most shops have not reopened the tragedy.
A village chief named Rahmansyah said 100 to 200 people could be buried under the debris of a residential complex in Palu. Many bodies have already been pulled out of the rubble, and at least 90 people are missing, he added.
Indonesia’s meteorological and geophysics agency BMKG had issued a tsunami warning after the earthquake, but lifted it 34 minutes later.
Palu’s airport, which had been shut until Saturday evening, was reopened only for relief operations, the disaster management agency said. The facility will remain closed until October 4.
Meanwhile, more than half of the 560 inmates lodged at the Palu prison escaped as the walls collapsed after Friday’s earthquake.
A series of earthquakes in July and August had killed nearly 500 people on the holiday island of Lombok, hundreds of kilometres southwest of Sulawesi.