The death toll from Indonesia’s powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake and tsunami has risen to nearly 850, authorities said Monday.
Officials say bodies still litter the streets and mass graves are being dug as rescuers try to reach Donggala, the closest city to the quake’s epicenter — and at least 844 people have died, more than 48,000 are displaced and more than 2.4 million have been affected.
“The Indonesian Red Cross is racing to help survivors [in Donggala], but we don’t know what we’ll find there,” said Jan Gelfan, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “I don’t think we’ve quite seen the worst of things yet.”
The government wants to get power restored to Palu, the capital, and other hard-hit areas by Thursday.
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“As a first measure, we will send portable generators from PLN along with 200 personnel,” said Andy Sommeng of the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry in Indonesia.
Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu has reopened to limited flights. Officials said priority will be given to evacuating survivors and arriving aid workers.
The Roa Roa Hotel in Palu collapsed, trapping about 50 people. Rescuers were digging through the rubble of the 8-floor building trying to find survivors.
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The earthquake Friday was accompanied by several smaller tremors. The seismic event triggered a 10-foot-tall tsunami that destroyed much of the coast.
In some places, the ground has changed into a strange liquid-like state from the intense stress and shaking. The soil moves like water with waves, a process known as liquefaction.
Experts said the flurry of quakes caused the soil to lose its strength and stiffness.