A week after an earthquake and a tsunami slammed into Indonesia’s Suwalesi island, the death toll has steadily climbed to 1, 558, according to the Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management on Friday.
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.
More than 70,000 homes were destroyed or damaged by the magnitude 7.5 quake that struck on September 28, launching waves of up to six-metres high that slammed into Sulawesi at 800 kilometres per hour.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, Indonesia’s disaster management agency spokesman, said about 1,000 may be buried in areas liquefied by the earthquake in Palu city’s Balaroa and Petobo. The areas were swallowed by three-metre deep mud.
Search-and-rescue operations have been hindered because the land is still too wet to manoeuvre on.
In the Palu neighbourhood of Balaroa, about 1,700 houses were buried when the earthquake caused soil to liquefy, the national rescue agency said.
Liquefaction is a phenomenon where saturated sand and silt take on the characteristics of a liquid during the intense shaking of an earthquake.
At least 600,000 children have been affected by the quake, Save the Children said, with many sleeping on the streets among ruins.
“It’s hard to imagine a more frightening situation for a child,” said Zubedy Koteng, the group’s child protection adviser. “Many children are in shock and traumatised, alone and afraid. Young children searching for surviving relatives will have witnessed and lived through horrific experiences which no child should ever have to see.”
However, there are signs of life returning to normal in some areas.
“Things are improving,” Azhari Samad, a 56-year-old insurance salesman, told AFP at a mosque in Palu. But for the area to recover fully from the disaster “will take years”, he added.
“The first six months will be traumatic, maybe in one year we have some progress. The government will help, people will help from all over the country. Indonesians have a big heart.”
Meanwhile, power was restored and some shops reopened in Indonesia’s quake and tsunami stricken city of Palu, The Associated Press said on Thursday.