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Evacuate, find and save victims: Widodo
PALU, Indonesia, Oct 2, (RTRS): Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for reinforcements in a desperate search for survivors of a devastating earthquake and tsunami on Sulawesi island, as the official death toll rose above 1,200 on Tuesday and looting fuelled fears of lawlessness. Officials fear the toll could soar, as most of the confirmed dead had come from Palu, a small city 1,500 km (930 miles) northeast of Jakarta, while some remote areas have been cut off since Friday’s 7.5 magnitude quake triggered tsunami waves.
“There are some main priorities that we must tackle and the first is to evacuate, find and save victims who’ve not yet been found,” Widodo told a government meeting to coordinate disaster recovery efforts on the west coast of Sulawesi. He said he had ordered the national search and rescue agency to send more police and soldiers into the affected districts, some cut off by destroyed roads, landslides and downed bridges.
The official death toll surged to 1,234, the national disaster agency said. Nearly 800 were seriously injured. The Red Cross said the situation was “nightmarish” and reports from its workers venturing into one cut-off area, Donggala, a region of 300,000 people north of Palu and close to the epicentre, indicated it had been hit “extremely hard”.
A video of Donggala, broadcast by the Antara state news agency, showed widespread destruction, including flattened buildings and a ship that had been hurled into port buildings by the tsunami. “What we need is food, water, medicine, but to up now we’ve got nothing,” said an unidentified man standing in ruins. Four badly hit districts of Sulawesi, one of the archipelago nations five main islands, have a combined population of about 1.4 million. In Palu, tsunami waves as high as six metres (20 feet) smashed into the beachfront, while hotels and shopping malls collapsed in ruins.
Some neighbourhoods were swallowed up by ground liquefaction, which happens when soil shaken by an earthquake behaves like a liquid. About 1,700 houses in one neighbourhood have disappeared beneath the mud, with hundreds of people believed buried, the national disaster agency said. Before-and-after satellite pictures show a largely built-up neighbourhood just south of Palu’s airport seemingly wiped clean of all signs of life by liquefaction. Among those killed were 34 children at a Christian bible study camp, a Red Cross official said.
More than 65,000 homes were damaged and more than 60,000 people have been displaced and are in need of emergency help. Thousands of people have been streaming out of stricken areas. Commercial airlines have struggled to restore operations at Palu’s damaged airport but military aircraft have taken some survivors out. Many more want to leave