The death toll in Indonesia rose to 832, a day after a powerful earthquake of 7.5 magnitude and tsunami waves as high as six meters (20 feet) struck the island of Sulawesi. The rescue teams are still combing through chunks of rubble, looking for survivors trapped under the debris. Roads and buildings were reduced to rubble and communication lines have been snapped in the island, hindering the rescue process.
Many swept away as tsunami waves triggered by a massive earthquake crashed into the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, and authorities expected the toll to rise sharply on Sunday as news arrives from remote areas. Dozens of people were reported to be still trapped in the rubble of a hotel in the city of Palu. Hundreds had gathered for a festival on the city’s beach when the wall of water smashed onshore at dusk on Friday, sweeping many to their deaths and destroying anything in its path. Indonesian President Joko Widodo was scheduled to visit evacuation centres in the city on Sunday.
President Joko Widodo visited the affected sites today. “I’m asking my brothers to all be ready to work day and night and to finish everything related to the evacuation,” Widodo — decked out in military fatigues — told troops deployed to Sulawesi island, reported AFP. Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla, in an interview with local media, said the death toll could reach well into the thousands.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Indonesia had not yet asked for help but he contacted President Joko Widodo overnight to offer support and deep sympathies. More than half of the 560 inmates in Palu’s prison escaped after its walls collapsed during Friday’s quake, according to state news agency Antara. “It was very hard for the guards to stop the inmates from running away as they were so panicked and had to save themselves too,” Antara quoted warden Adhi Yan Ricoh as saying. “We haven’t even have time yet to report this incident to our superiors.”