Members of the Indonesian Military (TNI) carry the body of a victim during a mass burial at Poboya Indah public cemetery in Palu, Central Sulawesi, on Tuesday (02/10). (Antara Photo/Abriawan Abhe)

Death Toll in Palu Quake, Tsunami Rises to More Than 1,200


OCTOBER 02, 2018

Jakarta. The death toll from last week's twin disasters in Palu and Donggala in Central Sulawesi has risen to more than 1,200, the authorities said on Tuesday (02/10).

The total number of people who died in the magnitude-7.4 earthquake, followed by a tsunami of up to 3 meters high, now stands at 1,234, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Nugroho said at a press conference in Jakarta.

The number of injured has meanwhile risen to 799, while 99 people are still missing and 61,867 have been left homeless. Nearly 66,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed in the disaster.

"[The victims] died from the impact of buildings collapsing due to the earthquake, or when the tsunami struck," Sutopo said.

However, the agency has yet to determine the number of victims in Palu's suburbs of Balaroa and Petobo, where more than 2,400 houses were destroyed by land subsidence and soil liquefaction.

Search and rescue operations in these areas are still done mainly by hand, while the thick mud proves to be a challenge even to the heavy equipment that has been brought in so far to help with the recovery of bodies.

Sutopo said the bodies of 153 victims were buried on Monday, and that the government was planning more mass burials on Tuesday.

Several media outlets have reported on the strong odor of decaying bodies, raising concern about the potential outbreak of disease in surrounding areas.

"We will bury more bodies today, and have prepared 15 trucks along with 1,000 body bags, but we will adjust to the situation on the ground," Sutopo said.

He acknowledged that many of those affected by the disaster have yet to receive basic necessities, adding that there were considerable obstacles on the ground, including limited fuel supplies and logistics.

Sutopo said the displaced are in dire need of tents, blankets, mattresses and clean water, among others.

Search and rescue operations expanded to areas outside Palu, such as Sigi and Donggala, on Tuesday. However, the agency said some areas are still inaccessible.

"We are still conducting evacuations, but there are challenges, such as limited electricity and telecommunications, a shortage of heavy equipment and rescue personnel, and damaged roads, limiting access," Sutopo said.

Despite the challenges, emergency relief efforts are improving as more fuel and other basic necessities continue to be brought into the affected areas, and more personnel are deployed to assist with the efforts.

More than 6,300 people, including 1,100 volunteers, are involved in the rescue operation.

The BNPB said most of the 122 foreigners who were in Central Sulawesi when the disaster struck have now been evacuated. Two of them – one from Belgium and another from South Korea – were still missing by Tuesday.

The agency suspects that the South Korean citizen may still be trapped under the ruins of Roa Roa Hotel in Palu, along with dozens more.