A mass grave with space for more than a thousand earthquake and tsunami victims has been prepared in Indonesia as a desperate hunt for survivors continued today.
Officials could be seen hauling body bags into the 330ft-long tomb in Palu after the city on the island of Sulawesi was devastated by 20ft waves and tremors so powerful they turned the ground to liquid.
As the death toll from the disaster climbed to more than 1,200 today, reports have emerged of looters raiding collapsed shopping mauls and hundreds of convicts escaping the ruins of their prison.
Hundreds more are trapped under buildings with rescue teams saying they can hear people screaming for help from under the rubble.
The magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck at dusk on Friday and sparked a tsunami that crashing into Palu at 500mph, causing widespread destruction. Four days on, some remote areas feared wiped out by the disaster have yet to be contacted, medicines are running out and rescuers are struggling with a shortage of heavy equipment.
A mass grave for more than a thousand earthquake and tsunami victims has been prepared in Indonesia as a desperate hunt for survivors continued today
Officials could be seen hauling body bags into the 330ft-long tomb in Palu after the city on the island of Sulawesi was devastated by 20ft waves and tremors so powerful they turned the ground to liquid
Around midday, teams of workers, their mouths covered by masks, carried 18 bagged bodies and laid them in a trench. Mechanical earth-movers waited to push soil on top of the bodies. More burials are expected to follow
A 25-year-old woman was found alive Sunday evening in the ruins of the Roa-Roa Hotel, according to the National Search and Rescue Agency, which released photos of the her lying on a stretcher covered in a blanket
Rescuers carry an earthquake survivor at restaurant building damaged by a massive earthquake and a tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia
People carry items looted from a shopping mall badly damaged by a massive earthquake and tsunami in Palu on Sunday morning as water still fills the streets of the coastal city
Figures collected by the National Police Headquarters put the number killed at 1,203 people.
Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said access to Donggala, as well as the towns of Sigi and Boutong, is still limited and there are no comprehensive reports from those areas.
This morning, Local Army Commander Tiopan Aritonang said 545 bodies would be brought from one hospital alone to a mass grave in Palu. The grave will be 33 ft by 330 ft and can be enlarged if needed, said Willem Rampangilei, chief of Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency.
‘This must be done as soon as possible for health and religious reasons,’ he said. Indonesia is majority Muslim, and religious custom calls for burials soon after death, typically within one day.
Local military spokesman Mohammad Thorir said the area adjacent to a public cemetery can hold 1,000 bodies. All of the victims, coming from local hospitals, have been photographed to help families locate where their relatives were buried. Video footage showed residents walking from body bag to body bag, opening the top to check to see if they could identify faces.
Around midday, teams of workers, their mouths covered by masks, carried 18 bagged bodies and laid them in a trench. Mechanical earth-movers waited to push soil on top of the bodies. More burials are expected to follow.
Military and commercial aircraft were delivering some aid and supplies to the region. But there was a desperate need for heavy equipment to reach possible survivors buried in collapsed buildings, including an eight-story hotel in Palu where voices were heard in the rubble.
A 25-year-old woman was found alive Sunday evening in the ruins of the Roa-Roa Hotel, according to the National Search and Rescue Agency, which released photos of the her lying on a stretcher covered in a blanket.
This mass grave has been built on a hill top outside Palu and has space for up to a thousand bodies. Officials have already started filling it with the dead
Pictures show the scale of the devastation and the work still to be done days after the tsunami and earthquake struck the island
An earthquake victim looks at the ruins of a mosque after it came crashing down during the devastating earthquake and tsunami
Rescuers are continuing to find bodies in the remains of collapsed buildings in Palu amid fears the death toll will climb
A number of other survivors were still being found and a few were being pulled from buildings in different locations.
Meanwhile, some 1,200 Indonesian convicts are on the run from three different detention facilities in devastated Sulawesi.
One prison in Palu – built to hold just 120 people – saw most of its 581 inmates storm past guards and escape to freedom through walls collapsed by the massive 7.5 magnitude shake.
‘Things were initially fine…but not long after the quake, water erupted from under the prison yard causing prisoners to panic and then run onto the road,’ said Ministry of Justice official Sri Puguh Utami, adding that the water was not from the tsunami.
‘I’m sure they escaped because they feared they would be affected by the earthquake. This is for sure a matter of life and death for the prisoners,’ she added.
Inmates had fled from another overcapacity facility in Palu by breaking down its main door and another in Donggala, an area also hit by the disaster.
The Donggala jail was set on fire and all 343 inmates were now on the run, Utami said. The arson was thought to have been sparked by angry detainees demanding to see their families.
‘They panicked after learning that Donggala was badly hit by the earthquake,’ Utami said.
Samidah, a relative of a victim, cries while gathered outside the collapsed Roa Roa hotel in Palu, Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi
A woman cries as she waits to be evacuated by military aircraft following an earthquake and tsunami at Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu
A man walks inside a damaged area at the Airport in the aftermath of earthquake in Palu in Indonesia
Rescue personnel evacuate earthquake survivor Ida, a food vendor, from the rubble of a collapsed restaurant in Palu
Relatives look for tsunami and earthquake victims in body bags at a police station, in the aftermath of earthquake in Palu
Rescuers try to rescue a 15-year old earthquake victim Nurul Istikharah from her damaged house following earthquakes and tsunami in Palu on Sunday
Rescue personnel evacuate earthquake survivor Ida, a food vendor, from the rubble of a collapsed restaurant in Palu
The death toll from an earthquake and tsunami that devastated part of the island of Sulawesi has risen to 1,203. Earthquake victims stuck in a traffic jam gather as they leave Palu
Rescue personnel carry the body of an earthquake victim to the compounds of a police hospital in Palu
A team of rescuers helping to pull a trapped woman from the mud on Sunday as thousands more are still feared to be trapped under rubble from Friday’s earthquake
‘Prison officials did negotiate with prisoners about allowing them to go to check on their families. But some prisoners were apparently not patient enough and committed the arson.’
Some of the convicts were jailed for corruption and narcotics offences, she said. Five people convicted of terror-related crimes had been moved from the prison just days before the disaster.
Just over 100 prisoners at the two facilities in Palu were still in jail, but overstretched guards were struggling to keep them fed.
‘The prison no longer had enough food,’ Utami said.
‘Officials then tried to buy supplies from stores around the prison that were still open.’
Nearly all of those confirmed dead in the disaster are from Palu. The regencies of Donggala, Sigi and Parigi Moutong – with a combined population of 1.2 million – had yet to be fully assessed.
‘The death toll is believed to be still increasing, since many bodies were still under the wreckage, while many have not been reached,’ said disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
Striking aerial shots show a mosque which has been razed first by the 7.5 magnitude earthquake and then the 2 meter high wave on Friday afternoon
A road traffic bridge could be seen completely collapsed along the coastline in the outskirts of Palu as first the earthquake and then the tsunami swept away enormous pieces of the city’s infrastructure
A handout photo made available by the Indonesian Presidential Palace showing Indonesian President Joko Widodo (C) looking at a ruined house as he visits a devastated area in Palu
A handout photo made available by the Indonesian Presidential Palace showing Indonesian President Joko Widodo (2-L) talking to residents as he visits a devastated area in Palu
An injured man is evacuated on a military aircraft following an earthquake and tsunami at Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu
In this photo released by the Indonesian Presidential Office, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, left, talks with tsunami survivors in a temporary shelter
Indonesian President Joko Widodo (L) looking at a ruined house as he visits a devastated area in Palu
Earthquake victims stuck in a traffic jam gather as they leave Palu on September 30, 2018
Earthquake victims stuck in a traffic jam gather as they leave Palu on September 30, 2018
Relatives look for tsunami and earthquake victims in body bags at a police station in Palu
The cries from beneath the Roa-Roa Hotel, which appeared to have toppled over with its walls splintered like pickup sticks, went silent by Sunday afternoon. Officials had estimated about 50 people could be inside.
‘We are trying our best. Time is so important here to save people,’ said Muhammad Syaugi, head of the national search and rescue team. ‘Heavy equipment is on the way.’
Metro TV showed about a dozen rescuers in orange jumpsuits climbing over debris with a stretcher carrying the body of a victim from the modest business hotel.
Other rescuers worked to try to free a 15-year-old girl trapped under concrete in her house in Palu after it collapsed on her family during the earthquake. Unable to move her legs under the rubble, Nurul Istikharah was trapped beside her dead mother and niece. Rescuers also tried to control water from a leaking pipe, fearing she would drown.
Istikharah was unconscious during part of the effort to free her, but rescuers kept talking to her to try to keep her awake. Others offered her food and water.
Indonesian rescuers search for the victims on the a collapsed Roa Roa hotel building in Palu as frantic efforts to save those trapped continued over the weekend
Members of the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency sift through the rubble of a collapsed building on Sunday in their desperate search for survivors
Motorists pass by a half-collapsed shopping mall heavily damaged by a massive earthquake and tsunami as darkness falls on Palu on Sunday
People take gasoline from a truck as the bare essentials are shipped in to the worst affected areas around the city of Palu on Sulawesi island
Hordes of people could be seen taking items from a damaged shopping mall in downtown Palu on Sunday as supply lines to the island remain down
A mannequin lies on the ground amid the wreckage of a destroyed shopping mall in Palu on Sunday as the island struggles to cope with the effects of the devastating quake and tsunami
Looters take away items from a shopping mall as government agencies struggle to get fresh aid to the affected areas of coastline
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, second right, talks with tsunami survivors in Palu on Sunday as he flew into Sulawesi to oversee relief efforts
President Joko Widodo stands in front of the ruins of a house in Palu on Sunday as he jetted in to inspect the damage for himself
Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo authorized for the country to accept international help for the disaster, Thomas Lembong, chair of Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board, tweeted Monday morning. It wasn’t immediately clear what type of help was being authorized, but the stricken areas needed medical supplies, food and water.
‘We will send food today, as much as possible with several aircraft,’ he told journalists in the capital, Jakarta, adding a supply of fuel was also set to arrive.
It was the latest natural disaster to hit Indonesia, which is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the ‘Ring of Fire,’ an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.
In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island in western Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries. More recently, a powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people in August.
In Donggala, the site closest to the earthquake’s epicenter, aerial footage on Metro TV showed the sugary blond sands of beaches swept out to sea, along with some buildings. Some buildings in the town were severely damaged, with plywood walls shredded and chunks of concrete scattered on the pavement. Much of the damage, however, appeared limited to the waterfront.
Joko Widodo, left, talks with tsunami survivors in a temporary shelter in Palu as thousands have been left homeless by the disaster
People sifting through the rubble on Sunday after the earthquake razed several thousand of Palu’s most vulnerable buildings to the ground on Friday
Thousands of people queue for gasoline in the streets of Palu following the disaster as many of the cars and motorbikes being used by civilians to adjust to the crisis have run out of fuel
The damage outside a shopping mall in central Palu where dozens of motorbikes and cars have been submerged by the flooding from Friday’s tsunami
Two men push a shopping trolley filled with goods away from the carcass of a destroyed shopping mall as people with motorbikes lined up in the streets to take away the looted goods on Sunday
The terrifying moment families run for their lives in Indonesia as tsunami and quakes turn the ground to LIQUID
The surface of tsunami-destroyed Palu City in Indonesia has turned to mush, with the death toll from Friday’s natural disaster likely to climb even higher from 1,203.
Houses and buildings have moved, sunken or collapsed as a result of the ‘liquefaction’ of the ground and there are more people still suspected to be trapped.
This natural phenomenon occurs during an earthquake when tremors shake normally compact layers of sand and soil into a deadly ‘soup’ that can create an effect similar to a sink hole.
In a video shared to Twitter on Sunday, families stood watch as buildings around them crumbled and the earth slid beneath their feet.
Houses and buildings have moved, sunken or collapsed as a result of the ‘liquefaction’ of the ground and there are more people still suspected to be trapped
The short clip was uploaded by Indonesian official Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, who wrote, ‘houses moved and collapsed were caused by the liquefaction process and collapsed due to the 7.4 SR earthquake in Palu City.
‘The ground surface moves and sinks so that all buildings are destroyed. The geological process is very terrible. It is estimated that victims are trapped in this area.’
Loud rumbling and crashing could be heard in the footage as a distressed family, including a baby, fled from nearby crumbling buildings.
The panicked group were forced to watched as a large shed-like structure fell to the ground before sliding across it towards them.
There were scenes of chaos as people scurried to reach safe ground – an impossible task given the dangerous sinking mud.
Fears have been mounting for the the fishing town of Donggala, which was closer to the epicentre of the quake, because rescuers have not been able to reach it.
The town of Mamuju was also severely affected but currently impossible to access due to damaged roads and disrupted telecommunications.
Palu, which has more than 380,000 people, was strewn with debris from the earthquake and tsunami. A heavily damaged mosque was half submerged and a shopping mall was reduced to a crumpled hulk. A large bridge with yellow arches had collapsed.
The city is built around a narrow bay that apparently magnified the force of the tsunami as the waves raced into the tight inlet. Nugroho, the disaster agency spokesman, said waves were reported as high as 6 meters (20 feet) in some places.
In one devastated area in Palu, residents said dozens of people could still be buried in their homes.
‘The ground rose up like a spine and suddenly fell. Many people were trapped and buried under collapsed houses. I could do nothing to help,’ resident Nur Indah said, crying. ‘In the evening, some of them turned on their cellphones just to give a sign that they were there. But the lights were off later and the next day.’
With hundreds injured, earthquake-damaged hospitals were overwhelmed.
Nugroho said 61 foreigners were in Palu at the time of the disaster. Most were accounted for, but one South Korean was believed to be trapped in the Roa-Roa Hotel, while three others from France and one from Malaysia were missing.
Indonesia is a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands home to 260 million people. Roads and infrastructure are poor in many areas, making access difficult in the best of conditions.
The disaster agency has said that essential aircraft can land at Palu’s airport, though AirNav, which oversees aircraft navigation, said the runway was cracked and the control tower damaged.
A family sleeps in front of a restaurant in Palu on Sunday as thousands of people in the coastal city have been left homeless by the natural disaster
People view the damage at the beach hit by tsunami as a road can be seen to be completely collapsed into the floodwater around the shore at Palu
Indonesian Air Force members stand in line as they prepare to board a military plane on its way to join emergency efforts in the coastal disaster area
Relief efforts are struggling to get through to most areas because of damage to airports, roads and rails with local rescuers in Sulawesi desperate for more support
Government officials said they expected the death toll to rise on Sunday despite it doubling to 832 over the weekend as more and more bodies are found in the rubble of destroyed buildings
Indonesian workers load donations into a military transport aircraft as those in affected areas are lacking the most basic necessities to survive
A woman carries a meager ration of fuel away from a filling station after queuing for hours to get a supply in crisis-racked Palu, Indonesia on Sunday
The collapsed dome of a mosque in Palu which was brought down in the huge earthquake on Friday as some of the city’s most notable landmarks fell victim to the tremors
Residents make their way along a street full of debris, including the wreckage of a shipping container. Power lines have come down and in the background is a mosque which was a badly damaged by the 20ft waves
Palu city is built around a narrow bay that apparently magnified the force of the tsunami waters as they raced into the tight inlet
Nugroho described the damage as ‘extensive’ with thousands of houses, hospitals, shopping malls and hotels collapsed, a bridge washed away and the main highway to Palu cut due to a landslide
Some people climbed trees to escape the tsunami and survived the towering waves caused by the two earthquakes: the first, a 6.1 magnitude quake hit the densely populated region on Friday morning, and was quickly followed by even fiercer 7.5 magnitude tremors
A woman cries as people begin to realise the extent of the damage and the number of casualties after an earthquake and a tsunami hit Palu. Thousands of buildings have been damaged, with some entirely swept away or demolished, leaving scores of families missing among the debris
Many of those killed in Palu were swept away by giant waves more than 20ft high as they played on the beach in the scenic tourist town. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency warned early on of reports showing that ‘victims died in the rubble of a collapsed building’
Fears are mounting for the the fishing town of Donggala, which was closer to the epicentre of the quake, but which rescuers have not been able to reach.
Indonesian media said Sunday that 832 people had died in Palu City, on the the Indonesian island of Sulawesi after two earthquakes in quick succession caused a tsunami that sent locals fleeing their homes.