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More than 1,200 were killed in Indonesia quake, tsunami

Posted: 2:49 AM, Oct 02, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-02 09:49:27Z

Desperation is growing in the stricken Indonesian city of Palu, as residents faced a fifth day without adequate supplies of food and clean drinking water, amid a sharp rise in the official death toll following Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Indonesia's national disaster agency said the number of people killed in the disaster had risen to 1,234 on Tuesday. The toll is expected to climb in the coming days as bodies continue to be retrieved from the rubble.

The situation for many of those left alive is dire, as families scramble to get even the most basic of goods. On Tuesday, hundreds of people waited in line in the blazing sun, standing among the ruins and debris, in the hope of obtaining a small amount of fuel.

At the last available gas pump in town, crowds gathered around a single, overworked attendant. In his hands was a large wad of cash almost too big to grip, the product of hours spent pumping fuel.

Money though is of little use when their is nothing left to buy. All normal services in the city have ceased to operate. Shops have either been destroyed or left empty, and food is scarce.

Roads to Palu -- a city of 350,000 people -- remain partially blocked and aid has been slow to trickle in. Indonesian vessels carrying food and water has still yet to arrive.

Reports of looting are widespread, as groups of survivors search deserted buildings for essential supplies. On Tuesday, CNN witnessed military personnel chasing would-be looters out of an empty grocery store.

Amid the long wait for supplies and aid, the desperate search continues for survivors with reports of more than 700 houses buried under a mudslide in a nearby town, which has yet to be explored.

An official from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent described the situation on the ground as "nightmarish."

Five days on from the first tsunami waves crashing into the city, bodies of victims remain unburied on the side of the roads. In a public cemetery on the outskirts of the city, workers continue to dig a mass grave the size of a football pitch in an effort to bury as many bodies as quickly as possible.

Almost 200 bodies are in this pit alone, with more still being added every hour. A few ID cards lie on the ground next to the pit, but not all bodies have been identified before they were laid to rest.

'I need to get the kids out of here'

An estimated 2.4 million people have been affected by the disaster, according to Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

He said Tuesday that 799 were injured, and more than 61,000 people have been displaced. In total, Sutopo said 66,000 homes had been destroyed so far.

Desperate to leave the scene of the disaster and escape the treat of looting, thousands of families, many with children, have taken to queuing at Palu airport in the hope of a way out.

"People are trying to get stuff from my house so I needed to get the kids out of here ... they're trying to rob us," one local woman told CNN as she waited in line at the airport, Monday.

While some residents are battling to escape the surrounding area, international aid organizations and the Indonesian military are trying their hardest to reach those in need.

Palates of supplies are en route to the affected area, with the Red Cross sending seven tons of logistical supplies from Jakarta on Tuesday.

Countries from around the world have also begun to announce aid packages for Indonesia. Australia, one of the country's closest neighbors, said it had already provided $500,000 of support immediately through the Indonesian Red Cross.

"Australia has some expertise and has resources in particular areas we can deploy, and we are looking to see how we can best fit the need," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Tuesday.

The United States announced it had released $100,000 in initial disaster assistance on Monday, according to a state department spokesman.

But on the ground, there's little evidence so far of the pledged aid with shipments expected to arrive in the days ahead.

Second earthquake hits

On Tuesday morning, there was yet another reminder of the constant threat of seismic activity in Indonesia, when a 6.0 magnitude earthquake shook the island of Sumba in the country's east.

Video from the close to the epicenter showed panicked residents and school children fleeing from buildings and homes. There has been no reports of injuries, and the tremor did not trigger a tsunami alert.

There is no indication at this stage whether or not the second earthquake will draw resources away from the situation in Palu, which is also continuing to experience aftershocks.

Indonesia sits between two continental plates on what is known as the "ring of fire," a band around the Pacific Ocean which leads to high levels of tectonic and volcanic activity.

Sumba is just to the east of the Indonesian island of Lombok, where at least 400 people were killed earlier in August following a devastating series of earthquakes which razed large portions of the island.

Palu survivors were still avoiding buildings and sleeping outside days after the earthquake, afraid of being caught inside if a severe aftershock were to happen.

Outside the Undata Hospital in Palu, injured patients slept under tarpaulins in the sweltering heat, some of them covered in flies. The hospital's director, Dr. Komang Hadi Sujendra, said power was only restored on Monday.