Death toll in In­done­sia quake and tsunami at 832 as many flee is­land

New toll an­nounced by na­tional dis­as­ter agency was al­most dou­ble pre­vi­ous fig­ure

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

The death toll from a pow­er­ful earth­quake and tsunami in In­done­sia leapt to 832 to­day, as stunned peo­ple on the stricken is­land of Su­lawesi strug­gled to find food and wa­ter and loot­ing spread.

The new toll an­nounced by the na­tional dis­as­ter agency was al­most dou­ble the pre­vi­ous fig­ure.

In­done­sian vice-pres­i­dent Jusuf Kalla said the fi­nal num­ber of dead could be in the "thou­sands" as many re­gions have still not been reached.

"It feels very tense," said 35-year-old mother Risa Kusuma, com­fort­ing her fever­ish baby boy at an evac­u­a­tion cen­tre in the gut­ted coastal city of Palu.

"Ev­ery minute an am­bu­lance brings in bod­ies. Clean wa­ter is scarce. The min­i­mar­kets are looted ev­ery­where."

In­done­sia's Metro TV on Sun­day broad­cast footage from a coastal com­mu­nity in Dong­gala, close to the epi­cen­tre of the quake, where some wa­ter­front homes ap­peared crushed but a res­i­dent said most peo­ple fled to higher ground after the quake struck. "When it shook re­ally hard, we all ran up into the hills," a man iden­ti­fied as Iswan told Metro TV.

In­done­sian pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo ar­rived in the re­gion on Sun­day af­ter­noon to see the dev­as­ta­tion for him­self.

In Palu city on Sun­day aid was trick­ling in, the In­done­sian mil­i­tary had been de­ployed and searc­hand-res­cue work­ers were doggedly comb­ing the rub­ble for sur­vivors -- look­ing for as many as 150 peo­ple at one up­scale ho­tel alone.

"We man­aged to pull out a woman alive from the Ho­tel Roa-roa last night," Muham­mad Syaugi, head of the na­tional search and res­cue agency, told AFP.

"We even heard peo­ple call­ing for help there yes­ter­day." "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."

There were also con­cerns over the where­abouts of hun­dreds of peo­ple who had been pre­par­ing for a beach fes­ti­val when the 7.5-mag­ni­tude quake struck Fri­day, spark­ing a tsunami that ripped apart the city's coast­line.

A Face­book page was cre­ated by wor­ried rel­a­tives who posted pic­tures of still-miss­ing fam­ily mem­bers in the hopes of find­ing them alive.

The dis­as­ter agency said it be­lieved about 61 for­eign­ers were in Palu when the quake struck, with most ac­counted for and safe.

Three French na­tion­als and a South Korean, who may have been stay­ing at a flat­tened ho­tel, had not yet been ac­counted for, it added.

Amid the lev­elled trees, over­turned cars, con­certi­naed homes and flot­sam tossed up to 50 me­tres in­land, sur­vivors and res­cuers strug­gled to come to grips with the scale of the dis­as­ter.

On Sat­ur­day evening, res­i­dents fash­ioned makeshift bam­boo shel­ters or slept out on dusty play­ing fields, fear­ing pow­er­ful af­ter­shocks would top­ple dam­aged homes and bring yet more car­nage.

C-130 mil­i­tary trans­port air­craft with relief sup­plies man­aged to land at the main air­port in Palu, which re-opened to hu­man­i­tar­ian flights and lim­ited com­mer­cial flights, but only to pi­lots able to land by sight alone.

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