Grim reality dawns as Sulawesi counts cost of tsunami tragedy

Volunteers filling a mass grave were instructed to prepare for a total of 1,300 victims to arrive. * AFP Getty images

Rescue personnel prepare the bodies of quake victims at the compound of a police hospital in Palu, Indonesia's Central Sulawesi on October 1, 2018, after an natural disaster and tsunami hit the area on September 28.

The death toll from Indonesia's quake and tsunami disaster almost doubled to 1,200 on Sunday (Sept 30) and was expected to rise further, prompting authorities to announce mass burials in a desperate attempt to stave off disease.

Some 1,200 Indonesian convicts are on the run from 3 different detention facilities in devastated Sulawesi after the region was rocked by a powerful natural disaster and tsunami, a justice ministry official said Monday, October 1.

The Boxing Day quake in 2004 triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

President Joko Widodo told reporters in Jakarta getting those people out was a priority.

About 12 people have been recovered from the ruins of the hotel, with one more body on Tuesday.

People drive past a washed up boat and collapsed buildings in Palu on Monday after earthquakes and a tsunami hit the area on Sept 28.

"Our funding has been going down every year", agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

Friday evening's magnitude-7.4 natural disaster, which caused a tsunami of up to 3 meters high, displaced 48,025 people in Palu alone.

Rescue efforts continue, as people work to dig out the dozens of others thought to be stuck under piles of rubble.

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Two people have been plucked from the 80-room Hotel Roa-Roa, Indonesia's search and rescue agency said, and there could still be more alive. The Jakarta Post says "many survivors blocked trucks carrying aid to plunder the contents" in Palu and Donggala.

Authorities and aid agencies feared the death toll of 844 would rise once they assessed the damage in those hard-to-reach places.

"Communication is limited, heavy machinery is limited.it's not enough for the numbers of buildings that collapsed", he said.

Kompas reported damage from the natural disaster and the following tsunami severely damaged power, telecommunications and transport infrastructure in the region. Most were accounted for, but one South Korean was believed to be trapped in the Roa-Roa Hotel, while three others from France and one from Malaysia were missing.

A double-arched yellow bridge had collapsed, its ribs twisted as cars bobbed in the water below.

"Oxfam is provisionally planning a response to reach 100,000 people in Palu city and Donggala district", said Ancilla Bere, Oxfam's Humanitarian Manager in Indonesia.

Search and rescue workers were beginning to reach the districts of Donggala and Sigi, which were largely isolated due to landslides, damaged roads and other infrastructure. According to news agencies, more than 1200 people are dead now.

The natural disaster hit at 5:02 p.m., quickly triggering a tsunami alert.

The wave hit Palu on Friday evening as Muslim worshippers were gathering for evening prayers in local mosques. More than 800 people were killed when the quake sent a tsunami barreling into the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

Indonesia sits on the "Ring of Fire", an area around the Pacific prone to quake and volcanic activity because of the movement of the Earth's tectonic plates.

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