Indonesia scrambles to help quake-hit island as death toll tops 800

Eight hundred and forty-four people have been confirmed dead - a death toll that is expected to climb significantly - and 59,000 have been displaced after a 7.4 magnitude natural disaster hit the island of Sulawesi on Friday morning. Buildings too close to the water that collapsed as giant waves hit Palu and elsewhere in central Sulawesi plainly show that lessons have still not been learned.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesperson for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, told reporters on Sunday none of Indonesia's tsunami buoys, one device used to detect waves, had been operating since 2012.

"Aid agencies and local authorities are struggling to reach several communities around Donggala, where we are expecting there to be major damage and potential large-scale loss of life", Howells said.

The government would accept offers of help from 18 countries and it had also commandeered 20 excavators from mines and plantations to help with a shortage of equipment to dig through wreckage and clear blocked roads, he said.

The magnitude 7.5 quake struck off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Saturday, sending a tsunami up to six-metres high crashing onto the island's northern shore, just over 930 miles from the capital Jakarta. "Let's hope that it will be done in one or two days", he said.

Indonesia has said it would accept offers of global aid, having shunned outside help earlier this year when an natural disaster struck the island of Lombok.

With the death toll expected to rise even further on the devastated island of Sulawesi, there were growing questions about why an early tsunami-warning system had not been working for years.

Nugroho Budi Wiryanto, operations chief for the National Disaster Search and Rescue Agency, said a lack of heavy equipment and fuel was "making it hard for us to recover victims".

Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo authorized the acceptance of global help, said disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, adding that generators, heavy equipment, and tents were among the items needed.

Another villager, 52-year-old Idrus, who uses one name, said that "up to Saturday we still saw many people screaming for help from the roofs".

Power has yet to be restored in the area and access by land to outlying villages has been disrupted by broken roads, landslides and downed bridges. But we could not do anything to help them.

Indonesian police carry the body of a tsunami victim during a mass burial in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. Local television said around 3,000 residents had flocked to the Palu airport trying to get out. Officials had estimated about 50 people could be inside.

The bodies of 34 Indonesian students have been found under a church which was buried by a mudslide after the quake in Palu, say aid workers.

Thousands of desperate people, mostly women and children, have swarmed the airport in the Indonesian city of Palu in a failed bid to push their way onto an Indonesian Air Force plane days after a powerful quake and tsunami devastated the city.

The four districts have a combined population of about 1.4 million.

People injured or affected by the natural disaster and tsunami wait to be evacuated on an air force plane in Palu, Indonesia, on September 30.

  • Tracy Klein