Xi sends condolences as tsunami toll tops 800 in Indonesia
President Xi Jinping sent condolences to his Indonesian counterpart Joko Widodo on Sunday over the casualties caused by a major earthquake and an ensuing tsunami that devastated Indonesia’s central Sulawesi province.
In his message, Xi said he was shocked to learn that the strong temblors and tsunami caused such a great loss of life and property.
The death toll hit 832 on Sunday, as stunned victims in Sulawesi struggled to find food and water.
On behalf of the government and people of China and himself, Xi extended sincere condolences to the victims and sympathies to their families, the wounded and people in disaster-affected areas.
Calling Indonesia a friendly neighbor, Xi said China shares the feelings of the Indonesian people and stands ready to provide assistance according to the needs of Indonesia.
Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said the final number of fatalities could be in the “thousands”.
Nearly 540 people were seriously injured and 16,732 people were forced to flee their homes, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the disaster agency, adding that most of the deaths were reported in Palu, the provincial capital, and the adjoining Donggala district, with 821 and 11, respectively.
“Today we will start the mass burial of victims to avoid the spread of disease,” he said.
Indonesia’s Metro TV on Sunday broadcast footage from a coastal community in Donggala, where some waterfront homes appeared crushed.
In Palu on Sunday, aid was trickling in and the Indonesian military has been deployed while search-andrescue workers were combing the rubble for survivors, looking for as many as 150 people at one upscale hotel alone.
“What we now desperately need is heavy machinery to clear the rubble. I have my staff on the ground, but it’s impossible just to rely on their strength alone to clear this,” said Muhammad Syaugi, head of the search and rescue agency.
A Facebook page was created by worried relatives who posted pictures of still-missing family members in the hopes of finding them alive.
Amid uprooted trees, overturned cars and collapsed homes, survivors and rescuers struggled to come to grips with the scale of the disaster.
On Saturday evening, residents fashioned makeshift bamboo shelters or slept outdoors, fearing aftershocks.
Xinhua, AFP and AP contributed to this story.
Rescuers evacuate a victim from the ruins of the Roa-Roa Hotel in Palu, Indonesia, on Sunday.