Thousands feared dead after quake-triggered mudflow flattens Palu villages

Thousands feared dead after quake-triggered mudflow flattens Palu villages
This aerial picture shows the remains of a ten-storey hotel in Palu in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi on September 30, 2018.
PHOTO: AFP

A number of areas in Central Sulawesi have been hit by large amounts of mudflow following a 7.4-magnitude earthquake that jolted the province on Friday that also triggered a tsunami.

Petobo subdistrict in South Palu district, Palu, which is located 10-kilometers from the sea, has been struck by such mudflow.

It is feared that about 2,000 people in the subdistrict are dead, with homes having been dragged away by the mud.  

Yusuf Hasmin, 45, said residents tried to escape the mudflow they claimed to have been rolling in like waves. He and his family had survived, but he had not heard from other relatives.

on Twitter

The same unexpected disaster hit another subdistrict in West Palu district, Palu. The subdistrict was sunken to the ground. Thousands were estimated to be dead.

Search and rescue teams were on the scene Sunday afternoon with heavy equipment to dig and clean the debris.

Scores killed in Indonesia quake, tsunami

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    Earthquake survivors in Palu, Central Sulawesi, crowd Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu in a desperate attempt to leave the devastated area on Monday.

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    A combination of satellite images shows Palu, Indonesia on September 22, 2018 (L) and on October 1, 2018.

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    A combination of satellite images shows Palu, Indonesia on September 22, 2018 (L) and on October 1, 2018.

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    In the wake of mass destruction caused by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake and the subsequent tsunami, survivors in Palu and Donggala in Central Sulawesi have been scrambling to salvage food supplies and other items, as aid from the central government began to trickle into the region.

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    An aerial view of an area devestated by an earthquake in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia October 1, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto.

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    Local residents affected by the earthquake and tsunami retrieve gasoline at a gas station in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia.

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    This handout from Indonesia's National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) taken on September 29, 2018 shows an aerial view of Palu, Indonesia's Central Sulawesi, after an earthquake and tsunami hit the area on September 28.

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    Scores of people were killed when a powerful quake and tsunami struck central Indonesia, an AFP photographer at the scene said on Saturday (Sept 29), as rescuers scrambled to reach the stricken region.

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    Photographs from Palu, home to around 350,000 on the coast of Sulawesi island, showed partially covered bodies on the ground near the shore, the morning after tsunami waves as high as 1.5 metres slammed into the city.

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    A satellite image shows Palu, Indonesia on October 1, 2018.

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    The tsunami was triggered by a strong quake that brought down several buildings and sent locals fleeing their homes for higher ground as a churning wall of water crashed into Palu.

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    People living hundreds of kilometres from the epicentre reported feeling the massive shake, hours after a smaller jolt killed at least one person in the same part of the South-east Asian archipelago.

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    The quake hit just off central Sulawesi at a depth of 10 kilometres just before 6pm local time, the US Geological Survey said. Such shallow quakes tend to be more destructive.

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    Search and rescue teams have been dispatched to hard-hit areas

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    A 10-storey hotel in Palu in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi collapsed following a strong earthquake in the area.

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    As shattered survivors scoured make-shift morgues for loved ones, and authorities struggled to dig out the living or assess the scale of the devastation beyond the city of Palu, grim warnings came that the eventual toll could reach thousands.

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    Rescuers on Sulawesi island raced against the clock and a lack of equipment to save those still trapped in the rubble, with up to 60 people feared to be underneath one Palu hotel alone.

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    Others have centred their search around open-air morgues, where the dead lay in the baking sun - waiting to be claimed, waiting to be named.

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    Still, as dire as the situation in Palu was, it was at least clear. In outlying areas, the fate of thousands is still unknown.

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    Desperate survivors, now facing a third straight night sleeping outdoors, turned to looting shops for basics like food, water and fuel as police looked on, unwilling or unable to intervene.

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Mobile phone footage of the mudflow circulated online on Sunday, showing several buildings being dragged. The video was accompanied by a broadcast message saying the incident occurred in Jono Oge village in Sigi regency on Saturday afternoon.

The person recording the event could be heard saying, “Oh Jesus Christ,” while the houses before him were moving.

Another video posted on Twitter shows people running and houses collapsing because of liquefaction in an unidentified location in Palu. 

National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said during a press briefing on Sunday in Jakarta that soil liquefaction had occurred, a natural phenomenon that takes place when solid soil loses its strength and behaves like liquid due to stress such as shaking during an earthquake.

“We observed that such phenomenon had dragged buildings away in several locations, such as in Sigi Biromaru district in Sigi regency and South Palu district,” Sutopo said.

The agency says the death toll from Friday’s earthquake has risen to 832, with the majority of victims having been buried under rubble or struck by the tsunami.  The agency has also recorded 540 injured people and more than 16,000 others are reportedly displaced. 

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