Indonesia seeks global help after quake-tsunami, mass prison breaks confirmed

A body is recovered by Humas Basarnas in Palu Indonesia. Reuters

A mass burial of people who died in last Friday's natural disaster and tsunami in central Indonesia has begun.

Indonesian rescue team inspect the damage of Roa-Roa Hotel following a massive natural disaster and tsunami in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018.

Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said the final death toll in the more remote regions could be in the "thousands" since many places have still not been reached.

Dozens of people were reported to be trapped in the rubble of several hotels and a mall in the city of Palu, which was hit by waves as high as six meters (20 feet) following the 7.5 magnitude natural disaster on Friday.

Rescuers discovered the bodies of 34 students buried in the landslide, Indonesia Red Cross spokeswoman Aulia Arriani told AFP news agency on Tuesday.

Among the dead are 34 children who were attending a Bible camp at a church near Palu.

Officials with the country's disaster agency confirmed at least 844 people have died as of Monday, October 1 after the quake struck and caused a tsunami with heights reaching almost 20-feet.

"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.

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Indonesia's geophysics agency did issue a tsunami warning but lifted it soon afterward. Some, who had lost power, didn't receive the alerts. There were also no sirens located along the coast.

Edi Setiawan, 32, said he and fellow villagers were able to rescue five children and four adults, including a pregnant woman.

Emergency workers said that the official count of 844 dead, nearly all of them from the town of Palu, was likely to rise into the thousands as rescuers reached towns and villages cut off by damaged roads.

There have been reports of looting, as people become desperate for food and other supplies.

State logistics agency chief Budi Waseso said it was preparing to send hundreds of tonnes of government rice stocks to areas in Central Sulawesi affected by the disaster.

After touring the devastated area on Sunday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo tweeted: "Grieve for the people of Central Sulawesi, we all grieve together".

Ministry of Justice official Sri Puguh Utami said inmates had fled from two overcapacity facilities in Palu and another in Donggala, an area near the epicenter of the quake. One-by-one they were dragged into the grave as excavators poured soil on top.

But many people are still looking for missing loved ones.

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One survivor, Adi, said he was hugging his wife by the beach when the tsunami wave - which measured up to 6m (20ft)- struck land. "I was carried about 50 meters". She was found alone, Doctor Sasono tells me.

"But we could not do (anything) to help them", he said. A faint smell of decomposition hung in the air. Dr Sasono says they will be buried in mass graves to stop the spread of diseases: "They are starting to smell".

"We want these activities to have as little disruption as possible", Jasmin said.

Rows of rubble lie all along the shoreline where vibrant fishing villages once stood. Thousands of people may have perished in the six-metre wave that smashed ashore and crushed buildings as it broke. Amid the rubble are tents where families are sleeping out in the open.

The 7.5-magnitude quake struck Friday (Sept 28), sparking a tsunami that ripped apart Palu's coastline.

In addition to travel and communication problems, relief agencies say their response to the latest crisis is somewhat limited by the fact that many staff members remain deployed to Lombok - an island hundreds of miles to the south of Sulawesi, where a 6.9 magnitude quake struck one month ago.

Almost 60,000 people were displaced, many terrified by powerful aftershocks, and they needed tents, water and sanitary facilities, while the power utility was working to restore electricity, he said.

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