Indonesia seeks global help after quake-tsunami, mass prison breaks confirmed

PALU Rescue workers evacuate a quake survivor from the rubble of a collapsed restaurant on Sunday.—AFP

PALU Rescue workers evacuate a quake survivor from the rubble of a collapsed restaurant on Sunday.—AFP

Buildings too close to the water that collapsed as giant waves hit Palu and elsewhere in central Sulawesi plainly show that lessons have still not been learned.

Rescuers continue to dig through rubble with their bare hands as the official death toll from the natural disaster and tsunami that struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday passed 840 people. The magnitude 7.5 quake struck at dusk Friday, generating a tsunami as high as 20 feet in some places.

The death toll is expected to reach into the thousands following quake & tsunami in Indonesia; Jacqui Heinrich has more.

In Balaroa, a Palu suburb once home to a housing complex, flattened trees, shards of concrete, twisted metal roofing, door frames and mangled furniture stretched out into the distance. Video footage showed residents walking from body bag to body bag, opening the tops to check if they could identify faces.

Government officials say some 1,200 inmates escaped from three prisons in the region as the quake struck. But the heavy toll also reflects insufficient awareness and preparedness, despite Indonesia experiencing 90 per cent of the world's quakes and bearing the brunt of the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, with 170,000 of the nearly 228,000 people killed in 14 countries being Indonesians. "I visited him last month, he's in good health but after this incident, we are continuing our effort to search for him, to make sure that he is safe", he told ANC's Dateline Philippines. The seismic event triggered a 10-foot-tall tsunami that destroyed much of the coast. "This is for sure a matter of life and death for the prisoners", she added.

"We have to do many things soon, but conditions do not allow us to do so", Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said on Sunday.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman of the national disaster management agency, said emergency power generators were being sent to Palu by the Indonesian Air Force.

Indonesian rescue workers said a mudslide caused by the natural disaster engulfed the church.

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population but also significant pockets of Christians, including on Sulawesi, which is one of the archipelago nation's five main islands.

"But we could not do (anything) to help them", he said.

According to government estimates up to 700 people may have been killed there alone, with numerous 1,747 homes destroyed.

The authorities have begun to bury bodies in mass graves amid concern about disease, while some survivors have resorted to looting shops for basic supplies. "We don't know where her family is and she doesn't remember where they live". "Now their cries are no longer heard".

Indonesia, one of the world's most disaster-prone countries, lies on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where tectonic plates collide and numerous world's volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.

A Lippo Group truck preparing to transport food and clothing from Makassar to Palu on Sunday.

"The ground rose up like a spine and suddenly fell". I could do nothing to help.

Novry Wullur of Indonesia's search and rescue agency said Nurul Istiharah, 15, managed to survive after being trapped inside her house after it collapsed. "But the lights were off later and the next day".

Indonesia is a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands home to 260 million people. It is likely that these figures will increase as more areas become accessible and additional assessments are conducted.

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