International

Indonesia quake, tsunami toll tops 1,500

JAKARTA, Oct 5 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 10/5/2018 12:12:46 PM IST

Search teams made desperate last-ditch efforts Friday to find survivors, a week on from Indonesia’s devastating quake-tsunami, as the death toll from the disaster rose above 1,500. The city of Palu on Sulawesi island has been left in ruins after being hit by a 7.5 magnitude quake and a wall of water, which flattened homes, ripped up trees and overturned cars.

After days of delays, international aid has finally started to arrive in the disaster zone, where the UN says almost 200,000 people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Authorities previously set a tentative deadline of Friday for finding anyone trapped under ruined buildings, although chances of pulling survivors alive from the rubble at such a late stage are almost zero. 

Local military spokesman Muhammad Thohir said that the death toll had risen to 1,558, up about 100 from the previous official figure.

Over 100 people are still unaccounted for, while hundreds of bodies have been buried in mass graves in a bid to avert a disease outbreak from corpses rotting in the tropical sun.

Search efforts focused on eight key locations Friday, including a beach and the Balaroa area where the sheer force of the quake turned the earth temporarily to mush.

“We have to use heavy equipment now because it is very difficult to sift through the rubble by hand,” Yusuf Latif, a spokesman for Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, told AFP.

At the badly damaged Mercure hotel on Palu’s waterfront, there was growing frustration among a French and Indonesian search team.

The rescuers, using sniffer dogs and scanners, had detected what they believed was a person under mounds of rubble the previous evening but when they resumed the hunt early Friday, any signs of life had disappeared.

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