Indonesia Hunts For Survivors As Powerful Quake Death Toll Hits 81
The 6.2-magnitude earthquake on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island struck on Friday morning has caused at least 81 people killed, hundreds of people injured and thousands displaced, authorities said on Sunday. Torrential monsoon rains hamper the hunt for anyone still buried alive under buildings flattened by the powerful earthquake. The President of Indonesia Joko Widodo offered his condolences to those who are affected, to stay calm throughout the process.
The deathly earthquake struck at 1:28 a.m. about 6 kilometres northeast of the city of Majene and at a depth of 10 kilometres as stated by Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency. According to Indonesia’s National Board for Disaster Management, there are at least 637 people are left injured and 15,000 residents have been displaced due to the natural disaster.
With thousands left homeless as rescuers raced to find anyone still alive under mountains of rubble more than two days after the disaster. Unfortunately, the monsoon rains were challenging the search effort, as hundreds of injured overwhelmed the only local hospital still operating in the aftermath of the Indonesia earthquake. The tremor triggered panic among residents of the island, which was hit by a 2018 quake-tsunami disaster that killed thousands.
Many people are still trapped under collapsed buildings because they were sleeping when the quake struck Mamuju City. Excavators and cranes were deployed across the devastated seaside city of Mamuju, where buildings were reduced to a tangled mass of twisted metal and chunks of concrete, including a hospital and the regional governor’s office.
“We heard a roaring sound and the house started shaking,” said survivor Jumardi, 50, from a shelter where he and six family members took refuge.
“All I had in my mind was that I would die…Everyone was panicking.”
Another statement made by a rescuer Octavianto in regards to the situation.
“The rain poses risks because damaged buildings could collapse if it gets too heavy…and aftershocks could move them too.”
Excavating debris too fast with heavy equipment could crush and kill any buried survivors, he added.
“All the victims we’ve found so far were dead,” said Octavianto, 37, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.
“It is most likely any more victims are already dead if 24 hours has passed,” he added.
Scores of rescuers combed through the destruction, filling body bags with corpses, while police deployed a K-9 unit of sniffer dogs to help in the search at a badly damaged hospital.
“We also use our own sense of smell to find possible victims,” said rescuer Kustang Firman at the hospital scene.
“If there’s a strong scent (of decay), we’ll focus on that spot.”
Official fears that there is a possibility for the death toll to be increased as rescue efforts continue. Authorities have yet to confirm a figure concerning how many survivors have been rescued. Meanwhile, corpses were recovered from under a collapsed hospital, while five members of a family of eight were found dead in the crumpled remains of their home.
Running low on supplies
It has been such crucial days for everyone who’s involved. Masked doctors treated patients with broken limbs and other injuries at a makeshift medical centre set up outside the only one of the city’s hospitals that survived the quake relatively intact. Among them was Wawan, who was rescued by neighbours after the violent tremor buried him. The 27-year-old initially didn’t want to go into a hospital to treat a broken foot.
“I was traumatised,” said the man to AFP Relax News.
“But people convinced me that the doctors were treating patients outside the building, so I agreed to go.”
Now, thousands who are left homeless by the quake took to makeshift shelters–many little more than tarpaulin-covered tents filled with whole families. They said they were running low on food, blankets and other aid, as emergency supplies were rushed to the hard-hit region. That’s not all! Many survivors are unable to return to their destroyed homes or were too scared to go back fearing a tsunami sparked by aftershocks, which are common after strong earthquakes.
“It’s better to take shelter before something worse happens,” said Mamuju resident Abdul Wahab, from a tent with his wife and four kids, including a baby.
With everyone being cramped up altogether, authorities are trying their best to separate high and low-risk groups. The decision was made due to the fear of an outbreak of coronavirus in the crowded camps.
“Covid-19 further complicates (the) emergency response,” said NGO Project HOPE.
Indonesia, a Southeast Asian archipelago of nearly 270 million, has been hit by a series of natural disasters this week. Landslides sparked by torrential rains killed at least 28 in Java island, while dozens are dead or missing after severe flooding pounded another part of Sulawesi and Kalimantan, Indonesia’s section of Borneo.
Volcano Mount Semeru shot a plume of ash and debris some 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles) into the sky Saturday night as bright red lava flowed down its crater. There were no reports of casualties.
Indonesian experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide.
In 2018, a 7.5-magnitude quake and a subsequent tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi left more than 4,300 people dead or missing. And on December 26, 2004, a massive 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra, triggering a tsunami that killed 220,000 throughout the region, including 170,000 in Indonesia — among the worst recorded disasters in history.
Source: AFP Relax News