Mass burials to begin as Indonesia toll tops 1,200

02 October, 2018, 08:42 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • Volunteers filling a mass grave were instructed to prepare for a total of 1,300 victims to arrive. * AFP Getty images

Some 1,200 Indonesian convicts escaped from three different detention facilities in the devastated region of Sulawesi following an quake and tsunami disaster, a justice ministry official said on Monday.

The Department of Foreign Affairs initially reported that the said Filipino was safe, but Orcine said their latest information was that "all of the detainees escaped because the building was destroyed by the natural disaster and the tsunami".

"The casualties will keep increasing", said national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, whose agency announced the jump in the toll from 420 earlier.

The European Union and South Korea have offered $1.7 million and $1 million respectively, while the Australian government has said it's working with Indonesia to identify options for assistance.

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. "We need all the help we can get", he said.

The Indonesian military is leading the rescue effort, but following an appeal for worldwide help by the president, NGOs also have teams on the ground in Palu.

Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said the government was doing all it could to get in as much food and fuel as into Palu as it could. 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.

Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo authorized for the country to accept worldwide help for the disaster, Thomas Lembong, chair of Indonesia's Investment Coordinating Board, tweeted Monday morning.

Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Mr Wiranto, who goes by one name, said air transport is the most pressing need.

"We'll bury them as soon as possible".


Elsewhere on the outskirts of Palu, trucks brought 35 bodies for burial in a mass grave dug in sandy soil.

Two survivors have been plucked from the rubble of the 80-room Hotel Roa-Roa, the search and rescue agency said, and there could still be more alive.

"My volunteers found 34 bodies. children who had been doing a bible camp", Arriani said.

More than 3,000 people gathered at Palu's airport Monday hoping to catch a ride out on a military plane but most were disappointed.

More recently, a powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people in August.

Channel News Asia reported some remote areas were only now being contacted, medicines were running out and rescuers were struggling with a shortage of heavy equipment as they tried to reach desperate victims calling out from the ruins of collapsed buildings.

Meanwhile, video footage showing the exact moment the tsunami struck Palu's coast has gone viral on social media.

Along with Palu, these districts have a combined population of about 1.4 million.

Indonesians, Filipinos, Sri Lankans and others whose countries border the Indian Ocean or are within the "ring of fire", the curving chain of tectonic plate boundaries that hug the Pacific basin, are once more asking searching questions about preparedness, warning systems and how when nature's fury randomly hits, lives can be best protected.

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