JAKARTA – The death toll from multiple strong earthquakes and an ensuing tsunami which devastated Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province has more than doubled to 832, officials announced Sunday.
Some 540 people were seriously injured and 16,732 people were forced to flee their homes, according to the national disaster management agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
The magnitude-7.5 earthquake’s epicenter was near the city of Palu in the province of Central Sulawesi, where 821 fatalities have been confirmed. Another 11 have been confirmed dead so far in Donggala, The Jakarta Post reported.
The earthquake struck at about 6 p.m. Friday and was followed by a six-meter high tsunami. First responders have found hundreds of the dead on beaches in the area and are still trying to reach others trapped under rubble, The Guardian reported.
Some parts of Sulawesi have been inaccessible after the earthquake, national disaster agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.
“The deaths are believed to be still increasing since many bodies were still under the wreckage while many have not able to be reached,” Sutopo said.
Meanwhile, Indonesian President Joko Widodo arrived in Palu Sunday and urged for rescue efforts.
Duka rakyat Sulawesi Tengah, duka kita semua.
Dengan saling bergandeng tangan, dampak bencana ini kita hadapi bersama. pic.twitter.com/i9imWHKMgm
— Joko Widodo (@jokowi) September 30, 2018
Spokesman of the Information and Communication Ministry Ferdinandus Setu said on Saturday that Palu’s airport has been operating but only serving relief flights.
Communication facilities have also been functioned in several parts of the quake-ravaged province.
Photos released earlier by the Indonesian air force and the disaster management agency showed collapsed buildings and bridges, and the injured lying in a yard in front of a hospital and waiting for treatment.
Indonesia is prone to earthquakes as it lies on a vulnerable quake-affected zone called the Pacific Ring of Fire.
The country’s Lombok Island was hit by multiple quakes hovering from 6.4 to 7.0 magnitude from late July to August this year, leaving at least 560 people dead.