Relief workers mobilized to help devastated areas and rescue teams desperately hunted for survivors Monday in the aftermath of a fierce earthquake and tsunami that hammered Indonesia, killing hundreds.
More than 840 people have been confirmed dead in the twin disasters that unfolded Friday when a magnitude-7.5 quake triggered a tsunami that swallowed homes and pulverized neighborhoods. That number is expected to rise as first responders reach remote areas.
Conditions in the hard-hit city of Palu on the coast are particularly difficult because the quake caused a phenomenon called liquefaction, which occurs when loose water-filled soil near the surface collapses, said the country’s disaster agency spokesman, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
“Hundreds of victims” are still buried in the mud, he said.
Relief groups, many of which have a long history in Indonesia, are facing a daunting task less than two months after another quake rocked the nation’s Lombok Island, killing more than 400 people and displacing thousands.
Flooding from Friday’s tsunami cut off roads to some villages, and food and clean water are in short supply. Some groups are having to travel 10 hours to reach the disaster zone because of access issues, the Red Cross reports. Looters are also making security an issue.
Thousands of people, mostly women with children – some pregnant – packed the airport in Palu in a futile attempt to board an Indonesian Air Force plane to escape the disaster.
“The smell of death is strong in the air, and it could start impacting people’s health after four days … I’m afraid the death toll is going to continue to rise dramatically,” said Radika Pinto, with humanitarian aid agency World Vision in Palu.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Susan Miller