After Central Sulawesi Quake, Empowering Coastal Communities Will Save Lives

Indonesia Aid

Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho says 265 people are reportedly missing, though more may be buried under deep mud and the rubble of homes and buildings that have collapsed.

Last Friday, a powerful 7.4-magnitude natural disaster and tsunami hit Central Sulawesi, launching waves as high as six meters that slammed into the island at 800 kph.

After days of delays, worldwide aid has finally started to arrive in the disaster zone, where the United Nations says nearly 200,000 people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Indonesian K9 police unit searches for victims in Palu, in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi on October 5, 2018, following the September 28 natural disaster and tsunami.

The city of Palu on Sulawesi island has been left in ruins after being hit by a 7.4-magnitude quake and a wall of water, which flattened homes, ripped up trees and overturned cars. The work to retrieve bodies has been hampered by lack of heavy equipment to dig them out.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it was appealing for 22-million Swiss francs ($22m) to help Indonesia.

Desperate survivors, some crying, waited to get a spot on the vessel which was set to return to the city of Makassar in southern Sulawesi, and brief scuffles broke out with soldiers.

The city which is 1,500 km northeast of Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, has teetered close to chaos this week, with outbreaks of looting, but a recovery was evident as some shops and banks reopened and a major mobile phone network was back up.

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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, all signs of life had disappeared.

The province's only airport serving flights to Palu was not operating normally as part of its runway was cracked by the strong natural disaster that made it only capable of serving propeller planes, instead of large cargo aids deliverer planes. "So, we do it along the road at night", said 50-year-old Armawati Yarmin.

The national disaster agency said the confirmed death toll from last Friday's magnitude 7.5 quake increased slightly to 1,571.

"I am hoping for a miracle", said Bambang, who has been searching daily at the hotel site for his pregnant wife.

But the Sulawesi tsunami was "atypical" and could not have been simulated, said Girardet, of the U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) in Bangkok.

The death toll from the disaster has already been confirmed to be over 1,500, and it is expected to rise especially in Palu where most of the dead have been counted.

Australia will deliver more supplies in coming days, after committing $5.5 million to help the Indonesian government respond to the disaster.

Indonesia and its 18,000 islands are located along the Pacific Ocean's "Ring of Fire" and are frequently struck by quake, volcano and tsunami activity.

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