Death toll mounts following earthquake, tsunami in Indonesia

UPDATE — 10/2, 10:22 a.m. EDT: Officials in Indonesia have announced 1,347 people are known to be dead due to Friday’s earthquake and tsunami which rocked the central island of Sulawesi in Southeast Asia.


Hundreds of people are reported dead and scores feared missing after a 7.5 earthquake activated a tsunami, both of which unleashed its destructive forces on the Indonesian cities of Palu and Donggala on Friday.

Home to an estimated 600,000 residents, it was originally estimated 400 were killed, but the death toll rose sharply Saturday to over 800.  Another 500 were believed to be injured, and over 15,000 said to have been displaced and finding refuge in temporary housing in the area.

The earthquake reportedly struck approximately 10 miles north of Donggala, 10 miles below the earth’s surface and sparked the tsunami.  A 14-day state of emergency has been declared.

Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said what caused the high fatality rate after the quake erupted was the hundreds of residents gathered for a citywide festival on Palu beach caught up in tsunami waves.

Authorities with the BNPB say the cause of the first quake was a Palu-Koro thrust fault stretching from Palu to Teluk Bone.  Officials say the fault line is the source of constant activity and its movement may have caused an underwater landslide, prompting the tsunami.

Tsunami waves reported to be as high as 10 feet smashed into residential areas of both cities, as the region continued to suffer the effects of strong aftershocks in the wake of the earthquake.

Witnesses reported tsunami waves sweeping away everything in its path, including debris from homes, logs and automobiles.  To escape the waves, residents were reported to have climbed trees.

Describing the carnage, Ical, a journalist with Indonesian news portal Sulteng Terkini, wrote on Whatsapp:

“Along the Palu coast, houses were swept away by the tsunami, including my house in Tondo, lost completely to the tsunami. Bodies are everywhere.”

Hampered by power outages, rescue workers raced to aid survivors and the grim task of recovering bodies forced mass burials to avoid the spread of disease.

BNPB also reported damage to the hospital in Palu and officials briefly closed Palu airport was closed due to the disaster, complicating relief aid from arriving to the victims.

Looting broke out as residents, without water or electricity, also reported fuel and food shortages.

Officials say a riot broke out at Donggala prison over prisoners’ demands they be released to assist family.  Denied, inmates burned the facility.

Indonesia is susceptible to frequent earthquakes, largely because of its location on the Ring of Fire, the arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.


[Jakarta Post] [Photo courtesy Reuters/International Business Times]