Rescuers race to save tsunami victims as death toll reaches 840

Rescuers race to save tsunami victims as death toll reaches 840

Rescuers race to save tsunami victims as death toll reaches 840

A 7.5-magnitude natural disaster struck the coast of Sulawesi island on Friday evening, which is about 50 miles north of Palu.

Footage of the ruined city showed a crumpled mess of houses, cars and trees mashed together by the quake, with rooftops and roads split and left at all angles.

"We don't know how many victims could be buried there, it's estimated hundreds", said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

Neighbors including Australia, Thailand and China offered help and Pope Francis, speaking to thousands in St. Peter's Square, said he was praying for the victims.

The 7.5 magnitude quake hit at dusk Friday, creating a tsunami that swept waves ashore reaching as high as 6 metres (20 feet) in some places.

The national search and rescue agency said one woman was rescued overnight in the Palu neighborhood of Balaroa, where houses were swallowed up when the natural disaster caused soil liquefaction.

The Indonesian government has allocated around Rs 270 crore for disaster relief, news agency Reuters reported.

President Joko Widodo told reporters in Jakarta getting those people out was a priority. Local Army Commander Tiopan Aritonang said, Indonesia is a majority Muslim, and religious tradition calls for the burial of a loved one typically one day after death.

Jan Gelfand, who heads the International Red Cross delegation in Indonesia, told media that the search and rescue efforts are being hampered by the remote location and the extent of the damage to local infrastructure.

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Indonesian President Joko Widodo authorised for the country to accept global help for the disaster, Thomas Lembong, chair of Indonesia's Investment Coordinating Board, tweeted on Monday morning.

Idrus, 52, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, said that "up to Saturday, we still saw many people screaming for help from the roofs". The main airport at Palu was damaged, landslides had cut off key roads while "power is out nearly everywhere", she added.

Elsewhere on the outskirts of Palu, trucks brought 35 bodies for burial in a mass grave dug in sandy soil. Almost 50,000 people are now homeless. "I picked up her body myself", Mahmud said. Hundreds descended yesterday on Palu airport, hoping to be evacuated by military transport over fears of aftershocks.

Novry Wullur, an officer from Indonesia's search and rescue agency, said Nurul Istiharah, 15, managed to survive after being trapped inside her house after it collapsed.

"People here need aid - food, drink, clean water", said Anser Bachmid, a 39-year-old Palu resident.

Of particular concern is Donggala, a region of 300,000 people north of Palu and close to the epicentre of the quake, and two other districts, which had been cut off from communications.

A massive 2004 quake triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 throughout the region, including 168,000 in Indonesia.

Many people had to sleep on the side of the road and patients were treated in open spaces.

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 natural disaster and tsunami devastated the city.

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