Sulawesi quake chaos: Tsunami survivors beg government for food and evacuation


Deadly 7.5-magnitude quake hit Indonesia, triggered a tsunami in Palu last week.

Local residents affected by the natural disaster and tsunami wait to be airlifted out by military planes at Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia September 30, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto.

Emergency crews are still trying to find victims of an quake and tsunami that struck Indonesia's island of Sulawesi, killing at least 1,200 people, according to local media citing government officials.

"I just finished my shopping and went to the cashier, suddenly everything got dark and the walls started falling around us, it was awful", said Mia, who like many Indonesians only goes by one name. "We just want to be safe!".

Willem Rampangilei, the chief of Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said the grave was dug in Palu, where the majority of the casualties have been recorded and is 33 feet by 330 feet.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the death toll could rise into the thousands.

As survivors struggle with a lack of food, water, and shelter, they have been forced to bury numerous dead in mass graves.

Desperate rescue operations have continued across Indonesia as the level of devastation caused by last week's quake continues to worsen.

In total, an estimated 2.4 million people were affected by the disaster, Indonesian Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

"Right now, we need emergency aid", Wiranto said, referring to the foreign aid that would be airlifted to Palu, 1,500km northeast of Jakarta.

Dozens of children were killed after being buried by a mudslide that slammed into their church during Indonesia's earthquake-tsunami disaster with more than 50 others still missing.

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"The Indonesian Red Cross is racing to help survivors, but we don't know what they'll find there", said Jan Gelfand, who heads the International Red Cross delegation in Indonesia Sunday.

The Jakarta administration has prepared Rp 60 billion (US$4 million) in relief aid for disaster-stricken areas in Central Sulawesi following the quake and tsunami that hit Palu on Friday. Some hard-hit areas remain without electricity and can not be reached due to destroyed roads, further impeding rescue efforts for those trapped in the rubble.

President Joko Widodo visited Palu on Sunday, inspecting the large-scale damage and consoling survivors.

A particular horror in several areas in and around Palu was liquefaction, which happens when soil shaken by an natural disaster behaves like a liquid.

Inmates from the other facility in Palu fled by breaking down its main door.

"The ground rose up like a spine and suddenly fell", resident Nur Indah said, according to USA Today.

In response, President Joko Widodo opened the door to the dozens of global aid agencies and NGOs who are lined up to provide life-saving assistance. "But the lights were off later and the next day".

Nugroho said conditions in the Balaroa section of Palu were particularly bad because the quake caused the ground to violently heave up and sink down in places, trapping many people under destroyed houses.

With hundreds injured, earthquake-damaged hospitals were overwhelmed.

Many have spent the last two days desperately searching for loved ones.

Idrus, 52, who like many Indonesians uses only one name, said that "up to Saturday, we still saw many people screaming for help from the roofs".