The death toll from a powerful earthquake on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi rose to 56, authorities said on Sunday, with thousands left homeless as rescuers rushed to find anyone still alive under mountains of rubble.
More than 820 people have been injured and around 15,000 have left their homes after the 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck in the early hours of Friday, according to the Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB). Some of the panicked residents sought refuge in the mountains, while others went to cramped evacuation centers.
Rescuers spent days transporting dead bodies under crumpled buildings in Mamuju, a town of 110,000 people in West Sulawesi province, where a hospital was razed and a shopping mall in ruins.
Others were killed south of the city.
Aerial footage of the devastated seaside town showed buildings reduced to a tangled mass of twisted metal and scraps of concrete, including the regional governor’s office.
It is not known how many more bodies could be under the debris, or if there was anyone still trapped but living more than two days after the disaster.
The authorities did not give a figure on the number of survivors rescued.
A pair of young sisters torn from under the mass of concrete and other debris were treated in hospital.
Shortages of food, supplies
Meanwhile, corpses were found under a collapsed hospital, while five members of a family of eight were found dead in the crumpled remains of their home.
The thousands of homeless in the aftermath of the earthquake settled in makeshift shelters – much more than tarpaulin-covered tents filled with entire families – which were lashed by heavy monsoon showers.
They said they were running out of food, blankets and other aid as emergency supplies moved to the hard-hit area.
Many survivors are unable to return to their destroyed homes or were too scared to return fearing a tsunami triggered by aftershocks, which are common after severe earthquakes.
“It’s best to take shelter before something worse happens,” said Abdul Wahab, a Mamuju resident, who has taken refuge in a tent with his wife and four children, including a baby.
“We hope that the government will soon be able to provide aid such as food, medicine and milk to the children,” he added.
Worried about a COVID-19 outbreak in overcrowded camps, authorities said they were trying to separate high-risk and low-risk groups.
The epicenter of the earthquake was 36 km (22 miles) south of Mamuju and it had a relatively shallow depth of 18 km (11 miles).
Straddling the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire”, Indonesia is regularly hit by earthquakes. In 2018, a devastating 7.5 magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck the town of Palu, Sulawesi, killing thousands.
Just two weeks after the start of the new year, the world’s fourth most populous country is once again facing several disasters.
Flooding in North Sulawesi and South Kalimantan province each claimed at least five lives this month, while landslides in West Java province killed at least 28, authorities said.
On January 9, a Sriwijaya Air plane crashed in the Java Sea with 62 on board.
Semeru Mountain in east Java erupted on Saturday evening, but there have been no reports of casualties or evacuations.