The number of fatalities after the powerful earthquake and the subsequent tsunami in the Indonesian island lead to over 846 deaths according to the National Agency for Disaster Management.
Authorities fear that this figure will rise considerably in the coming days when the damage suffered in the remote and isolated areas affected by the disaster is known, “an area larger than originally estimated,” according to the agency spokesman, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. Dozens of people are missing, many trapped under the rubble and hospitals in the town of Palu cannot cope with the wounded.
The city of Palu and the adjoining coastal region of Donggala are the areas closest to the epicenter of the powerful tremor, of magnitude 7.5 on the Richter scale, and those that received the impact of the subsequent tsunami.
The provisional count of victims, which doubles the number announced on Saturday, basically includes those recorded in Palu, because there are hardly any data of the more than 300 kilometers of coastal strip northwest of this town also affected by the tsunami, which brought to the coast waves of up to six meters.
“We have limited communications about the destruction in the city of Palu, but we have not heard anything from Donggala and this is extremely worrying. There are more than 300,000 people living there, “the Red Cross said in a statement. “This is already a tragedy, but it could get worse,” said the country’s vice president, Jusuf Kalla, who predicted that the death toll could be counted in the thousands, Reuters reports.
In Palu, local media reports describe a city badly damaged and immersed in chaos. Hospitals can not cope with the wounded many are treated outdoors and rescue teams face enormous difficulties in working.
“We are having problems deploying heavy machinery to find victims under the rubble of buildings because several of the roads leading to Palu are damaged.”
Willem Rampangilei, Head of the National Agency for Disaster Management.
According to the first estimates, there are about 16,700 people in this city who have been evacuated and waiting for help.
“We managed to get a living woman out of the Roa-Roa hotel last night,” Muhammad Syaugi, head of emergency services, told Agence France Presse.
The eight-story building collapsed with dozens of guests inside. “We even heard people shout for help.” Authorities also fear the fate of several hundred people who were on the beach on Friday shortly before the tsunami preparing for an annual festival. The largest shopping center in the city also collapsed due to the trembling and the force of the waves.
Palu airport despite having been initially unused it could be used on Sunday for the landing of military aircraft, which have begun to transfer troops from the army to help in the search of the trapped and deliver food and other humanitarian aid to the affected.
Commercial flights have been limited to give free access to emergency services, The president of the country Joko Widodo have visited the affected area on Sunday.