Volunteers bury more bodies from Indonesia quake

Geneva Stokes
October 7, 2018

Indonesia's disaster agency says the death toll from the quake and tsunami that struck the Sulawesi island last week has risen to 1,649.

No evacuations have been ordered because of the eruption so far, but people have been warned to stay as far as 4 miles away, according to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for BNPB, Indonesia's disaster response agency.

The disaster agency said thousands were injured and tens of thousands - possibly hundreds of thousands - displaced from their homes and in need of emergency assistance.

The city of Palu and surrounding districts on the island of Sulawesi were rocked by the 7.5 magnitude quake last week, killing more than 1,400 people and destroying thousands of homes, as well as damaging bridges and other infrastructure.

Indonesian K9 police unit searches for victims in Palu, in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi on 5 October 2018, following the 28 September natural disaster and tsunami.

He told SBS News some areas of Palu have been completely "obliterated" with more than 65,000 homes destroyed. The death toll is now above 1,500, but that could rise as central areas of the hard-hit island have not yet been reached. "But not yet to the most inaccessible places", Ms Sinta said.

Most of the confirmed dead have come from Palu and losses in remote areas remain unknown.

Palu residents crowded around daisy- chained power strips at the few buildings with electricity, or queued for water, cash or petrol being brought in via armed police convoy.

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He said a multinational operation to fly aid supplies to disaster zones has been staged out of Balikpapan - a port city 380km west of Palu.

"It is a very severe disaster here that is going to take a long time to recover from", he said.

Some 130 million Indonesians - about half the population - spend an average of almost three-and-a-half hours a day on social media, one of the highest rates in the world, according to data from London-based creative agency We Are Social and social media management platform Hootsuite. "Indonesians have a big heart".

Australia will deliver more supplies in coming days, after committing $5.5 million to help the Indonesian government respond to the disaster. The work to retrieve bodies has been hampered by lack of heavy equipment to dig them out.

Landing slots at Palu airport are snapped up by the Indonesian military, although it was expected to be open to commercial flights from 7:59am today.

However, worldwide efforts to help are gearing up, after the government overcame a traditional reluctance to take foreign aid.

Indonesia sits along the Pacific "Ring of Fire", the world's most tectonically active region, and its 260 million people are vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

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