Indonesian Red Cross rescue teams have spoken of terrified survivors huddled in a devastated city rocked by aftershocks, and of entire houses being sucked into the ground, as the full scale of Friday’s earthquake and tsunami disaster begins to emerge.
Rescuers from the Indonesian Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia or PMI) and government authorities have reached the outskirts of Donggala district, the area that was closest to the epicentre of the 7.4 magnitude earthquake and that is believed to have suffered the worst damage.
Jan Gelfand, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Country Cluster Support office in Jakarta, said: “The situation in the affected areas is nightmarish. The city of Pula has been devastated and the first reports out of Donggala indicate that it has also been hit extremely hard by the double disaster.
“Red Cross and other teams are working round the clock but the biggest challenge at the moment is getting access to all communities, and then bringing large quantities of vital relief supplies into the disaster zone. Transport links, power and communications are still down.”
Red Cross volunteers have reported incidents of “liquefaction” where saturated soil has turned liquid and swallowed whole houses.
IFRC and the Indonesian Red Cross are now appealing for 22 million Swiss francs to respond to this growing emergency. This appeal, which builds on an appeal launched in the aftermath of the Lombok earthquakes, aims to support a total of 160,000 people across the two disaster zones for 20 months.
IFRC also released 750,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund on Sunday (30 September) to support the Indonesian Red Cross operation.
More than 175 volunteers and staff from the Indonesian Red Cross are currently on the ground and conducting search and rescue activities, providing medical support, distributing relief goods, and comforting the terrified survivors. Twenty-two Red Cross water trucks and 15 ambulances with medical teams have been deployed, along with boats to bring supplies to Palu city. Five regional Red Cross warehouses have emptied in an effort to bring response efforts quickly to scale.
Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency now believes that at least 832 people have been killed – 821 deaths in Palu, and 11 in Donggala - but has warned that the final death toll will in all likelihood number in the thousands.
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