Hunt for buried survivors after Indonesia quake

Hunt for buried survivors after Indonesia quake
At least 46 people were killed when an earthquake hit Indonesia's Sulawesi island on Friday.
4 min read
The earthquake was recorded at a magnitude of 6.2 [Getty]
Rescuers scrambled to find buried survivors on Saturday after a powerful earthquake on Indonesia's Sulawesi island killed dozens, injured hundreds and left more feared trapped in the rubble of collapsed buildings, as monsoon rains lashed the disaster-struck region.

At least 46 people died after the 6.2-magnitude quake struck in the early hours of Friday, triggering panic among residents of the island, which was hit by a 2018 quake-tsunami disaster that killed thousands.

Body bags were filled with corpses hauled from beneath crumpled buildings in Mamuju, a city of 110,000 people in West Sulawesi province, where a hospital was flattened and a shopping mall lay in ruins.

Others were killed south of the city.

Grieving relatives began burying the dead on Saturday and it remained unclear how many more victims could still be under mounds of twisted metal and chunks of concrete strewn across the seaside community.

Planes and boats packed with food and other emergency supplies flowed in, as the navy reportedly sent a ship equipped with mobile medical services to take pressure off Mamuju's still-standing hospitals, which have been flooded with hundreds of injured.

Rescuers said a shortage of heavy equipment was slowing the search effort.

Thousands left homeless by the quake took to makeshift shelters - many little more than tarpaulin-covered tents filled with families - that were lashed by heavy downpours.

"We're running out of food. There hasn't been any aid from the government yet," 24-year-old survivor Desti told AFP from hard-hit Majene.

"Some people are using coconut leaves as mats," she added.

Many survivors are unable to return to their destroyed homes, or too scared to go back fearing more quakes or a tsunami.

Covid control

Worried about an outbreak of Covid-19 in the crowded camps, authorities said they are trying to separate high and lower-risk groups.

Mamuju resident Ice said he and his family were buried under rubble when they heard the voices of children searching for those still alive.

"They were shouting 'Who's alive?' and after hearing that I said 'Yes, I'm alive' and then me and my family were able to crawl out from under the rubble," said the man, who sustained a broken arm.

James, a construction supply seller taking refuge at a bus depot, said he leapt from the second storey of his home just before the violent tremor flattened the building.

"After shaking a few times, the house collapsed," he said, adding that his parents and sister also managed to escape.

A pair of young sisters plucked from under the mass of concrete and other debris were treated in hospital.

But the news was more grim for many, as eight corpses were plucked from under a collapsed hospital, while five members of a family of eight were found dead in the crumpled remains of their home.

"It will be essential that children are prioritised in any response, as they may have witnessed the death of loved ones or become separated from their parents," NGO Save the Children said.

'Heartfelt solidarity'

Pope Francis expressed his "heartfelt solidarity" with those affected by the disaster.

Landslides triggered by the heavy rains and quake blocked the main access road out of the seaside city, scuttling some residents' attempts to flee.

The city's airport had also been damaged, while the regional governor's office was also partly destroyed.

Power remained out in parts of Mamuju after the quake damaged its electricity grid.

The quake's epicentre was 36 kilometres (22 miles) south of Mamuju and it had a relatively shallow depth of 18 kilometres.

In neighbouring Kalimantan, Indonesia's section of Borneo island, at least five people had died in heavy flooding while dozens more were missing, according to reports.

Indonesia, a sprawling Southeast Asian archipelago of nearly 270 million, 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.

On December 26, 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra and triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 throughout the region, including around 170,000 in Indonesia.

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