These shocking satellite images show how the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia has wiped villages off the map as the death toll soars past 1,200.
The magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck at dusk Friday and generated a tsunami said to have been as high as 6 meters (20 feet) in places.
Satellite images show the devastation it has caused to the Balaroa and Petobo neighbourhoods in the city of Palu, with whole sections of villages disappearing.
Search-and-rescue teams are desperately combing the destroyed homes and buildings, including a collapsed eight-story hotel, for any trapped survivors, but they needed more heavy equipment to clear the rubble.
These satellite images show the devastation caused to the Balaroa neighbourhood of Palu after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami
Many people were believed trapped under shattered houses in Palu’s Balaroa neighborhood, where the earthquake caused the ground to heave up and down violently.
In the district of Sigi, 34 children were found dead under tsunami debris. They were all attending a Christian camp, Indonesian Red Cross spokeswoman Aulia Arriani said.
A 38-year-old man was pulled out alive from beneath a collapsed building three days after the 7.5 earthquake and 500mph tsunami devastated the city of Palu.
These satellite images show a view of the Petobo neighbourhood in Palu, Indonesia. The village has been severely damaged by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami
Some remote areas feared wiped out by the disaster have yet to be contacted, medicines are running out and rescuers, who have reported hearing screams from under building wreckage, are struggling with a shortage of heavy equipment.
In response, President Joko Widodo opened the door to the dozens of international aid agencies and NGOs who are lined up to provide life-saving assistance.
Britain will send a team of five aid workers to Sulawesi along with £2 million of support to help the thousands left homeless, the Department for International Development (DfID) confirmed.
A ship is seen stranded on the shore after an earthquake and tsunami hit the area in Wani, Donggala, Central Sulawesi, in Indonesia
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: ‘The UK offers its deepest condolences to those affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia which has left hundreds of people dead and thousands more homeless and in need of urgent help.’
Figures collected by the National Police Headquarters put the number killed at 1,203 people. Officials fear the toll will rise steeply in the coming days and are preparing for the worst, declaring a 14-day state of emergency.
One woman was recovered alive from ruins overnight in the Palu neighbourhood of Balaroa, where about 1,700 houses were swallowed up when the earthquake caused soil to liquify, the national rescue agency said.
A view of a mass grave for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Figures collected by the National Police Headquarters put the number killed at 1,203 people
Residents walk near Baiturrahman mosque which was hit by an earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia
An aerial view of an area devestated by an earthquake in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. The destroyed temple can be seen clearly in the middle of the image
‘We don’t know how many victims could be buried there, it’s estimated hundreds,’ said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the 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 at Poboya – in the hills above Palu.
Mechanical earth-movers waited to push soil on top of the bodies. More burials are expected to follow with authorities desperate to stave off any disease outbreak caused by decomposing bodies.
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.
A number of other survivors were still being found and a few were being pulled from buildings in different locations.
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.
Desperate survivors turned to looting shops for basics like food, water and fuel as police looked on, unwilling or unable to intervene.
‘There has been no aid, we need to eat. We don’t have any other choice, we must get food,’ one man in Palu told AFP as he filled a basket with goods from a nearby store.
Television pictures showed scores of residents shouting ‘we’re hungry, we need food’ as soldiers distributed rations from a truck in one neighbourhood, while footage from elsewhere showed people making off with clothes and other items from a wrecked mall.
Local television said around 3,000 residents had flocked to the Palu airport trying to get out. Footage showed some people screaming in anger because they were not able to board departing military aircraft.
The tsunami swept down a bay before crashing into the city of Palu. crushing everything in its path after the 7.5 magnitude earthquake on Friday
‘We have not eaten for three days!’ one woman yelled. ‘We just want to be safe!’
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.
How a ‘perfect storm’ spawned disaster
Inadequate warning systems, a lack of education about what to do when the quake hit and a narrow bay that channelled the tsunami’s destructive force – a perfect storm of factors spawned the deadly disaster in Indonesia.
Questions are mounting about what exactly happened and if more could have been done to save lives.
The tragedy has highlighted what critics say is a patchy early-warning system to detect tsunamis in the seismically-active Southeast Asian archipelago.
‘There was no information about a tsunami recorded by the tide-monitoring station in Palu because it was not working,’ Widjo Kongko, a tsunami expert with the Indonesian government’s technology agency, told AFP.
The station keeps a check on changes in tides and should have detected if destructive waves were headed for the city.
After the initial quake, Indonesia’s geophysics agency – which monitors seismic activity – did issue a tsunami warning but lifted it soon afterwards.
It was only later that images emerged of a surging wall of water charging into the coast, flattening buildings and overturning cars.
Tide-monitoring stations and data-modelling are the main tools in Indonesia for predicting if a quake has generated a tsunami.
But even if all the country’s stations are working, experts say the network is limited and in any case gives people little time to flee as they only detect waves once they are close to shore.
Efforts to improve systems have been beset by problems, from a failure to properly maintain new equipment to bureaucratic bickering.
After a quake-tsunami in 2004 off Sumatra island killed 220,000 across the region, with most victims in Indonesia, 22 early-warning buoys were deployed around the country to detect tsunamis.
But officials have admitted that they are no longer working after being vandalised and due to a lack of funds for maintenance.
In another case, a major project with funding from the US National Science Foundation to deploy high-tech tsunami sensors in a quake-prone part of western Indonesia has been delayed.
Louise Comfort, a natural disaster expert from the University of Pittsburgh who has led the American side of the initiative, said that it had been put on hold after disagreement between government agencies and a delay in getting financing.
‘It’s so disheartening and it’s so sad because we’ve got the technology, we’ve got the knowledge, we know we can do it,’ she told AFP.
However, others called for a stronger focus on simply teaching people to head to higher ground when a quake hits, rather than on expensive technology which many communities in a developing country like Indonesia cannot afford.
‘For a place like Indonesia to try and defend its coastline, education is almost certainly going to outpace technology for the foreseeable future,’ said Adam Switzer, a tsunami expert from Nanyang Technological University’s Earth Observatory of Singapore.
‘Every kid in Indonesia needs to be taught what to do if they are on the coast and there is an earthquake.’
Observers stressed the Indonesian quake was highly complex, and it would not have been easy to predict it would send a tsunami barrelling towards the small community of Palu.
The initial tremor was a sideways movement of tectonic plates, rather than the sort of violent upward thrust that would typically generate destructive waves, and was followed by scores of aftershocks.
Experts believe that the tsunami could have been triggered by an underwater landslide that followed the tremor.
Palu’s unique geography will not have helped, they said – the tsunami likely intensified as it raced down the narrow bay on which the city sits.
‘Geographical factors (the narrow bay, shallow water) seemed to have played major roles,’ said Taro Arikawa, a professor at Chuo University in Tokyo.
‘The tsunami must have come very fast and suddenly.’
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.
‘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.
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.