Tsunami survivors sleep on roads
Aftershocks hit island as bodies line the streets, death toll could rise to thousands
Palu: Aftershocks rocked the coastal city of Palu on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi until Saturday afternoon following the massive earthquake on Friday, which triggered the tsunami. The series of earthquakes were felt in an area with 2.4 million people.
Residents too afraid to sleep indoors camped out in the darkness on Saturday while victims recounted harrowing stories of being separated from their loved ones.
Some of the injured, including Dwi Haris, who suffered a broken back and shoulder, rested outside Palu’s Army Hospital, where patients were being treated outdoors due to continuing strong aftershocks. Tears filled his eyes as he recounted feeling the violent earthquake shake the fifth floor hotel room he shared with his wife and daughter. “There was no time to save ourselves. I was squeezed into the ruins of the wall, I think,” said Haris, adding that the family was in town for a wedding. “I heard my wife cry for help, but then silence. I don’t know what happened to her and my child. I hope they are safe.”
Nina, a 23-year-old woman, was working at a laundry service shop not far from the beach when the quake hit. She said the quake destroyed her workplace, but she managed to escape and quickly went home to get her mother and younger brother. “We tried to find shelter, but then I heard people shouting, ‘Water! Water!’” she recalled, crying. “The three of
us ran, but got separated. Now I don’t know where my mother and brother are. I don’t know how to get information. I don’t know what to do.”
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency BNPB, during a briefing in Jakarta, described the damage as “extensive” and said thousands of houses, hospitals, shopping malls and hotels had collapsed. A bridge washed away and the main highway to Palu was cut off due to a landslide.
Bodies of some victims were found trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings, he said, adding that the official death toll stood at 384 with 540 people injured, and 29 missing. Photos showed bodies being lined up along the street.
Nugroho said the casualties and the damage could be greater along the coastline 300 km north of Palu, an area called Donggala, which is closer to the epicentre of the quake. Communications “were totally crippled with no information” from Donggala, Nugroho said. Over 6,00,000 people live in Donggala and Palu.
“We’re now getting limited communications about the destruction in Palu city, but we have heard nothing from Donggala and this is extremely worrying,” the Red Cross said in a statement. “This is already a tragedy, but it could get much worse,” it said.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the death toll could rise to thousands.
(L-R) A video grab of a tsunami wave hitting the shore on Friday; the ruins of cars seen in Palu, Sulawesi, Indonesia on Saturday