Indonesian authorities scrambled on Monday to get aid and rescue equipment into quake-hit Sulawesi island and prepared to bury some of the dead, while shaken survivors streamed away from their ruined homes in search of food and shelter.
The confirmed death toll of 844 looked certain to rise as rescuers reached devastated outlying communities hit on Friday by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami waves as high as six meters (20 feet).
Accounts filtering out of remote areas brought news of devastation, including the deaths of 34 children at a Christian study camp.
Dozens of people were reported to be trapped in the rubble of several hotels and a mall in the small city of Palu, 1,500 km (930 miles) northeast of Jakarta, with hundreds more were feared buried in landslides that engulfed villages.
President Joko Widodo told reporters getting those people out was a priority.
“The evacuation is not finished yet, there are many places where the evacuation couldn’t be done because of the absence of heavy equipment, but last night equipment started to arrive,” Widodo said.
“We’ll send as much food supplies as possible today with Hercules planes, directly from Jakarta,” he said, referring to C-130 military transport aircraft.
The disaster agency said later more heavy equipment and personnel were needed to recover bodies.
One woman was recovered alive from ruins overnight in the Palu neighborhood of Balaroa, where houses were swallowed up when the earthquake caused soil liquefaction, the national rescue agency said.
Most of the confirmed deaths were in Palu, a city of about 380,000 people, where authorities were preparing a mass grave to bury the dead as soon as they were identified.
However, nearly three days after the quake, the extent of the disaster was not known with authorities bracing for the toll to climb – perhaps into the thousands – as connections with remote areas up and down the coast are restored.
Of particular concern is Donggala, a region of 300,000 people north of Palu and close to the epicenter of the quake, and two other districts, which had been cut off from communications.
The four districts have a combined population of about 1.4 million.
Aid worker Lian Gogali, who had reached Donggala district by motorcycle, said hundreds of people facing a lack of food and medicine were trying to get out but evacuation teams had yet to arrive and roads were blocked.
“It’s devastating,” she told Reuters by text.
Indonesian Red Cross spokeswoman Aulia Arriani said the situation in another of the affected districts, Sigi, was dire.
“My volunteers found 34 bodies buried under tsunami debris … missing children who had been doing a bible camp,” she said.
Sulawesi is one of the earthquake-prone archipelago nation’s five main islands and sits astride fault lines. Numerous aftershocks have rattled the region.
FUEL AND RICE
Pictures showed expanses of splintered wood, washed-up cars and trees mashed together, with rooftops and roads split asunder. Access to many areas is being hampered by damaged roads, landslides and collapsed bridges.
A Reuters witness said queues at petrol stations on the approaches to Palu stretched for kilometers. Convoys carrying food, water and fuel awaited police escorts to prevent pilfering before heading towards the city while a stream of residents headed out.
The state energy company said it was airlifting in 4,000 liters of fuel, while Indonesia’s logistics agency said it would send hundreds of tonnes of rice.
The government has allocated 560 billion rupiah ($37.58 million) for disaster recovery.
Military aircraft were sent to bring people out of Palu, where crowds of people clutching bags and boxes were waiting at the airport, military official Bambang Sudewo told Metro TV.
It was hoped up to 1,500 people could be taken out every day, with children, women and the injured the priority, he said. Media footage showed chaotic scenes with officers struggling to keep order.
Indonesia, which is on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, is all too familiar with earthquakes and tsunamis. A quake in 2004 triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.
Questions are sure to be asked why warning systems set up after that disaster appear to have failed on Friday, and why more people in coastal areas had not moved to higher ground after a big quake, even in the absence of an official warning.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, told reporters on Sunday none of Indonesia’s tsunami buoys, one device used to detect waves, had been operating since 2012. He blamed a lack of funds.
The meteorological and geophysics agency BMKG issued a tsunami warning after the quake but lifted it 34 minutes later, drawing criticism it had been too hasty.
However, officials estimated the waves had hit while the warning was in force.
The head of Indonesia’s investment board said Widodo had agreed to accept international help and he would coordinate private sector assistance from around the world.
Brexit Will Not Happen Next Week
Brexit will not happen next week. The United Kingdom has been granted a bit more time to figure out the terms of its departure from the European trading bloc. The date could be April the twelfth or may the twenty-second.
European Council President, Donald Tusk, says he would push the departure date to May the twenty-second if the UK parliament approves a withdrawal agreement next week.
Parliament’s failure to approve the Brexit deal next week would mean deadline for departure from the European Union will be April the twelfth.
The decision to grant the delay came a day after may delivered a televised speech blaming parliament for the Brexit impasse. That speech angered the political spectrum.
May hopes with this European Council next decision, the House of Commons would pass a Brexit deal next week. She says that would help bring an end to the uncertainty and would help the UK to leave Europe in a smooth and orderly manner.
Chemical Factory Explosion In China Kills 47, Injures Over 600
An explosion at a chemical plant that occurred on Thursday in China’s eastern Jiangsu province has killed 47 people and injured over 600, among which 90 are critically injured, state media reported.
The fire which happened at a plant that contained highly inflammable chemical owned by the Tianjiayi Chemical Company spread to neighbouring factories was finally brought under control at 3.00 a.m. on Friday.
President Xi Jinping, who is in Italy on a state visit, ordered all-out efforts to care for the injured and to “earnestly maintain social stability”, state television said.
Reuters disclosed that some police at the scene were wearing face masks, sealed off roads to the plant. The blast smashed windows in the village of Wangshang two kilometres (1.2 miles) away, and shocked villagers likened it to an earthquake.
New Zealand Bans Sale Of Assault Rifles, Semi-Automatic Weapons
New Zealand has banned the sale of assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons after the country’s worst-ever attack in which fifty persons were killed in two mosques.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference the ban is in the national interest and it’s about safety… To prevent an act of terror from ever happening again in New Zealand.
Ardern said she expects the new law to be in place by mid-April. Buy-back schemes will be established for banned weapons.
Ardern said the suspect arrested in the attacks had purchased his weapons legally and enhanced their capacity by using 30-round magazines “done easily through a simple online purchase.”
The changes in New Zealand’s gun laws are expected to curtail future acts of random violence like the mass mosques shootings in Christchurch.
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