The Indonesian government said on Monday, October 1 that as many as 1,200 inmates have escaped from three detention facilities in the devastated region of Sulawesi following an quake and tsunami disaster.
Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said conditions in the Petobo neighbourhood of Palu city are particularly bad because the quake caused a phenomenon called liquefaction, which occurs when loose water-filled soil near the surface loses its strength and collapses.
About 12 people have been recovered from the ruins, with one more body on Tuesday.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the death toll could rise into the thousands.
At Poboya - in the hills above the devastated seaside city of Palu - volunteers dug a 100 metre-long grave to bury the dead, with instructions to prepare for 1,300 victims to be laid to rest. Authorities have prioritized the immediate burial of the dead to prevent any disease outbreak caused by decomposing bodies.
As rescue workers and volunteers continue the daunting task of sifting through wreckage in Palu to search for survivors, satellite images reveal the vast scale of the devastation following the 7.5-magnitude natural disaster, which brought waves of nearly 20 feet to the coastal city.
A lack of machinery has slowed down the search and around 60 people are believed to still be buried under one hotel in Palu - the city of more than 300,000 where most of the dead have so far been found.
Thousands of rescue workers have already reached the area and more than a dozen foreign nations have agreed to contribute to the ongoing rescue efforts.
Among them were three men looking for their younger brother.
There have since been successful deliveries of rice and water to the airport, but the humanitarian missions are reliant upon police escorts and distribution by soldiers to manage the crowds of exhausted and hungry survivors. We are scaling up our response to reach 500,000 people with essential aid supplies like ready-to-eat food, water purification kits, and shelter packs.
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Many survivors have spent the last days desperately searching for loved ones while dealing with the trauma of the disaster.
One of them, Adi, was hugging his wife by the beach when the tsunami struck on Friday. He has no idea where she is now, or whether she is alive.
"I and about 50 other people in Balaroa were able to save ourselves by riding on a mound of soil which was getting higher and higher", resident Siti Hajat told MetroTV, adding her house was destroyed.
"We have to be very careful so we don't risk hurting any survivors when we move the debris", the head of the rescue team, Agus Haryono, told Reuters.
The situation is increasingly desperate in the severely damaged areas of central Sulawesi island where people are running short of food, fuel and other essentials.
Indonesia is racing against the clock as authorities continue to rescue victims affected by the recent magnitude 7.5 quake.
About 1,700 houses in one neighborhood were swallowed up by ground liquefaction, which happens when soil shaken by an quake behaves like a liquid, and hundreds of people are believed to have perished, the disaster agency said. However, the official figures that the agency presented only scratched the surface as it is feared that hundreds of others are still unaccounted for, while commmunication networks are still down and rescue missions to other affected areas outside Palu are being hampered by damaged roads, landslides and broken bridges.