Death toll from Indonesia's quake and tsunami continues to rise, reaching 832

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Villagers carry the body of a victim following earthquakes and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Sept. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Arimacs Wilander)
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Search and rescue workers evacuate an earthquake and tsunami survivor trapped in a collapsed restaurant in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on September 30, 2018. (Antara Foto/Muhammad Adimaja/ via REUTERS)
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People survey the mosque damaged following earthquakes and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Sept. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
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People search through debris in a residential area following an earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia on September 30, 2018. (Antara Foto/Darwin Fatir/via REUTERS)
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People queue for fuel at a petrol station in earthquake and tsunami hit Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on September 30, 2018. (Antara Foto/Muhammad Adimaja/ via REUTERS)
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A rescuer inspects the damage of Roa-Roa Hotel following a massive earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on Sept. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)
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Local residents affected by the earthquake and tsunami wait to be airlifted out by military planes at Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on September 30, 2018. (Antara Foto. Antara Foto/ Akbar Tado/ via REUTERS)
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Search and rescue workers evacuate an earthquake and tsunami survivor trapped in a collapsed restaurant in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on September 30, 2018. (Antara Foto/Muhammad Adimaja/ via REUTERS)
Updated 30 September 2018
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Death toll from Indonesia's quake and tsunami continues to rise, reaching 832

  • Rescuers were scrambling Sunday to try to find trapped victims in collapsed buildings where voices could be heard screaming for help
  • Hundreds of people were injured and hospitals, damaged by the magnitude 7.5 quake, were overwhelmed

PALU, Indonesia:  The confirmed death toll from a 7.4-magnitude earthquake and a subsequent tsunami that hit Indonesia’s central Sulawesi province rose to 832 on Sunday. Most of the casualties were from Palu, the provincial capital and one of the hardest-hit areas.

Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said 821 of the casualties were from Palu and 11 from neighboring Donggala district. Officials feared the figure could rise to more than 1,000, judging from past experience handling the tsunami that hit Aceh in 2004.

“It is expected the number of victims will continue to rise as many of them are still unidentified, trapped under collapsed buildings and in areas that rescuers still can’t reach,” BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

Nugroho added that 71 foreigners from nine countries were affected by the disaster that hit the province on Friday, but most of them are safe and have been accounted for. More than half of the foreigners are from Thailand and China but they have been reported safe, while three French and one Malaysian are still unaccounted for.

“A South Korean national is thought to have been in Roa-Roa Hotel in Palu which collapsed in the earthquake,” Nugroho said.

Rescue personnel are still searching for victims under the hotel debris, where it is estimated up to 60 people have been buried under the ruins and those beneath the rubble of shopping malls, residential houses and many other damaged buildings in the city as well as those who were swept away from Talize Beach.

A collapsed mosque is seen amid waters from a tsunami surge in Palu, Central Sulawesi on Sept. 30, 2018. (AFP/ADEK BERRY)

Most the victims died after they were hit by rubble of buildings damaged in the quake and the tsunami, and they will be buried after they have been identified through face recognition and fingerprints, Nugroho said.

 “We will start burying victims in mass graves today to avoid any diseases,” he said.

 Nugroho said aftershocks continue to rock the area with at least 209 recorded until Sunday. 

President Joko Widodo on Sunday visited Palu’s Balaroa residential complex, which has been severely damaged in the quake.

“I have instructed all relevant government bodies that first and foremost we must put priority on evacuation,” Widodo said.

He called on the distressed residents to remain calm and told them that humanitarian assistance was on the way despite the damaged access to the affected areas and communication network.

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.

AirNav said one of its air traffic controllers, aged 21, died in the quake after staying in the tower to ensure a flight he’d just cleared for departure got airborne safely. It did.

More than half of the 560 inmates in a Palu prison fled after its walls collapsed during the quake, said its warden, Adhi Yan Ricoh.

“It was very hard for the security guards to stop the inmates from running away as they were so panicked and had to save themselves too,” he told state news agency Antara.

Ricoh said there was no immediate plan to search for the inmates because the prison staff and police were consumed with the search and rescue effort. “Don’t even think to find the inmates. We don’t even have time yet to report this incident to our superiors,” he said.

This aerial picture shows the debris of a ten-story hotel demolished by an earthquake on Sept. 28, 2018 in Palu, Central Sulawesi. (AFP)

Cries for help from trapped people heard

Muhammad Syaugi, the head of Indonesia’s search and rescue agency, said that he could hear people calling out from the collapsed eight-story Roa-Roa Hotel in the hard-hit city of Palu on the island of Sulawesi.

“I can still hear the voice of the survivors screaming for help while inspecting the compound,” he said, adding there could be 50 people trapped inside.

The nearby cities of Donggala and Mamuju were also ravaged, but little information was available due to damaged roads and disrupted telecommunications. Nugroho said “tens to hundreds” of people were taking part in a beach festival in Palu when the tsunami struck at dusk on Friday. Their fate was unknown.

Hundreds of people were injured and hospitals, damaged by the quake, were overwhelmed.

Some of the injured, including Dwi Haris, who suffered a broken back and shoulder, rested outside Palu’s Army Hospital, where patients were being treated outdoors due to continuing strong aftershocks. Tears filled his eyes as he recounted feeling the violent earthquake shake the fifth-floor hotel room he shared with his wife and daughter.

“There was no time to save ourselves. I was squeezed into the ruins of the wall, I think,” said Haris, adding that his family was in town for a wedding. “I heard my wife cry for help, but then silence. I don’t know what happened to her and my child. I hope they are safe.”

It’s 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. Last month, a powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people.

Palu, which has more than 380,000 people, was strewn with debris from the earthquake and tsunami. A mosque heavily damaged by the quake was half submerged and a shopping mall was reduced to a crumpled hulk. A large bridge with yellow arches had collapsed. Bodies lay partially covered by tarpaulins and a man carried a dead child through the wreckage.

The city is built around a narrow bay that apparently magnified the force of the tsunami waters as they raced into the tight inlet.
Indonesian TV showed dramatic smartphone video of a powerful wave hitting Palu, with people screaming and running in fear. The water smashed into buildings and the mosque.

Indonesia is a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands that’s home to 260 million people. Roads and infrastructure are poor in many areas, making access difficult in the best of conditions.

(With AP & Reuters)


‘Don’t cry’: Celebration trumps pain at funeral for New Zealand terror attack victim

Updated 36 min 16 sec ago
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‘Don’t cry’: Celebration trumps pain at funeral for New Zealand terror attack victim

  • Nabi was the man who unknowingly opened the door to his killer at the city’s Al Noor mosque, reportedly welcoming him with the words “Hello Brother”
  • That was the memory those laying him to rest wanted to broadcast on Thursday

CHRISTCHURCH: Heads bowed, their hair covered by black headscarves, female family members of Mohemmed Daoud Nabi gently wept as they approached his body until a fellow mourner called out “Don’t cry.”
It was a refrain heard repeatedly throughout the short, emotional funeral for 71-year-old Nabi, one of 50 people slain by a white supremacist gunman in Christchurch last Friday during a live broadcast rampage that caused global revulsion.
Those bidding farewell to the septuagenarian were determined to send out a message. This was a day of celebration, not of loss.
Nabi was the man who unknowingly opened the door to his killer at the city’s Al Noor mosque, reportedly welcoming him with the words “Hello Brother.”
And that was the memory those laying him to rest wanted to broadcast on Thursday.
Huddled together under a marquee on a grey and blustery day, Nabi’s sons recited prayers in Dari and Arabic as the former head of their family lay in a wooden casket at their feet.
“Those who live abroad and die or killed there will go to paradise,” one of the sons said, a reference to Nabi’s journey two decades before from war-torn Afghanistan to his adopted homeland New Zealand.
“He was killed in a mosque in a house of God. He was a true servant. He was a pious person,” he added.
After prayers mourners carefully lifted the casket aloft and carried Nabi toward the newly dug grave at Memorial Park Cemetery, one of dozens for victims of the massacre.
Those gathered were a reflection of the breadth of the community affected by Friday’s massacre, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, bikers, refugees, young families — all touched by Nabi and the warmth he showed.
Some held placards advocating peace and tolerance. Some sported those now two ubiquitous words: “Hello Brother.”
As Nabi’s body, wrapped in white cloth, neared the grave, quietness descended over the crowd. Family and close friends then gathered to pour earth from plastic buckets into the open casket.
Stretching out across the cemetery were row upon row of empty graves still waiting to be filled in the coming days.
It was a stark reminder of the sheer scale of the killings, 50 dead among a small, tight-knit community in a town with a population of some 350,000 people.
Yet the mood in the compound remained joyous and steered away from despair.
Heavily tattooed biker gang members mingled with men wearing Afghan dress, non-Muslims and smartly dressed community leaders, embracing, sharing memories and stories.
A long line of mourners took turns to hug Nabi’s sons.
“I’m happy because he went straight to Jannah (paradise),” Omar Nabi said. “The gunman didn’t even know he opened the gates to heaven for my dad.
“He is laughing at him and smiling at us... Have you ever congratulated anybody for a death? This is the time and this is the place. Don’t cry. Don’t be sad. Congratulations. Your father made it to heaven.”