Indonesia Tsunami death toll rises to 832 and counting

Oct 01, 2018, 08:16 IST | Agencies

Indonesia's health officials resort to mass burials, even as ill-equipped rescuers struggle to reach scores trapped in aftermath of the quake-tsunami

Indonesia Tsunami death toll rises to 832 and counting
Family members carry the body of a relative to the compounds of a police hospital in Palu. Pics/AFP

The death toll in Indonesia's quake-tsunami disaster nearly doubled to more than 800 Sunday, as ill-equipped rescuers struggled to reach scores of trapped victims, health officials resorted to mass burials and desperate residents looted shops for food and water.

"The casualties will keep increasing," said national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, whose agency announced 832 deaths, adding, "Today [Sunday] we will start the mass burial of victims, to avoid the spread of disease." Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said the final death toll in the north of Sulawesi island could be in the "thousands" since many regions have still not been reached.

Rescuers evacuate an earthquake survivor
Rescuers evacuate an earthquake survivor

In Palu on Sunday, aid was trickling in, the Indonesian military had been deployed and search-and-rescue workers were doggedly combing the rubble for survivors. The 7.5-magnitude quake struck Friday, sparking a tsunami.

Indonesian Prez Joko Widodo (L) talks with survivors
Indonesian Prez Joko Widodo (L) talks with survivors

Dozens of corpses lay in an open courtyard at the back of a Palu hospital, with only one building separating it from an open triage site on the opposite side. The disaster agency said it believed about 71 foreigners were in Palu when the quake struck, with most safe.

Warning system delays add to toll
An early warning system that could have prevented some deaths in the tsunami that hit an Indonesian island on Friday has been stalled in the testing phase for years. Inter-agency wrangling and delays in getting just 1 billion rupiah ($69,000) to complete the project means the system hasn't moved beyond a prototype. The backbone of Indonesia's tsunami warning system today is a network of 134 tidal gauge stations augmented by land-based seismographs, sirens in about 55 locations and a system to disseminate warnings.

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