The toll in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Indonesia’s Sulawesi island last week went up to 1,234 on Tuesday, Reuters quoted an official of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency as saying. Earlier, 844 people had been reported dead.
President Joko Widodo addressed a government meeting to coordinate disaster recovery efforts and directed the national search and rescue agency to dispatch more police officers and soldiers into the affected areas. “There are some main priorities that we must tackle and the first is to evacuate, find and save victims who have not yet been found,” Widodo said.
Rescue workers discovered the bodies of 34 students who were killed in a landslide, reported AFP. Eighty-six students had initially been reported missing from a Bible study camp in Sigi Biromaru district.
Rescuers buried 54 bodies in a mass grave on the outskirts of Palu. Another body was pulled out from the ruins of the 80-room Hotel Roa-Roa where more than 50 people were feared trapped. So far, 12 people have been recovered from the debris, with three of the victims pulled out alive.
“We suspect there are still some survivors trapped inside,” said Agus Haryono, head of a rescue team working at the site. The area still has no power supply and has been completely cut off after landslides damaged roads and brought down bridges.
On Tuesday, one of the first evacuation flights transported dozens of people from Palu to a military airport in East Java, reported AP. Andi Wijaya, the airport base commander in East Java, said seven aircraft were ready for evacuation missions but crews were needed to prepare for the flights.
A local administrator from Donggala urged the government to urgently send assistance as people in the city had been starving for days. With supplies dwindling, administrator Kasman Lassa said citizens were taking food and other essential items from shops. “Everyone is hungry and they want to eat after several days of not eating,” he said.
Australia provided $360,000 (approximately Rs 2.6 crore) in financial aid and the money was given to the Indonesian Red Cross to cover the cost of emergency aid needs, such as tarpaulins. On Monday, Widodo had sought international aid.
On Tuesday morning, Indonesia was hit by two new earthquakes off the southern coast of Sumba island. There were no immediate reports of any casualties.