The death toll from two earthquakes and a tsunami that hit Indonesia's Sulawesi island rose to 1,407 yesterday, an official said, as hospitals struggled to cope with the high number of casualties amid a shortage of power and fuel.
More than 2,550 were hospitalized with serious injuries and 113 were missing after Friday's disaster, according to the National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Nugroho. "We expect the figures will continue to increase," he said, as reported by dpa. More than 70,000 have been forced from their homes, he added.
Some of the injured were being evacuated as hospitals in the city of Palu suffered power outages, according to Bambang Sadewo, a military officer charged with the evacuation. "They need treatment but because there's still no electricity, they can't be treated in Palu," he said. Bambang added that 15 aircraft, including Hercules C-130 cargo planes, will be used to carry the injured to Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi province. At Palu's Mutiara Al Jufri Airport, injured victims were being treated in army camp beds, with some wearing leg and arm casts.Aid has begun to arrive after the disaster, however the pace remained slow due to damaged infrastructure. President Joko Widodo, who visited Palu for a second time yesterday, said the government was doing all it could to bring aid to the victims.
"Food supplies have begun coming in, though not at maximum speed," Joko said, as he inspected a rescue effort at the Roa Roa hotel, where about 30 people were believed to be still trapped. "Fuel and heavy machinery are coming in too and electricity is being repaired. Everything takes time," he said, appealing for patience.Meanwhile, a volcano erupted yesterday morning in another part of Sulawesi island, about 940 kilometers (585 miles) northeast of the earthquake zone, spitting a plume of ash more than 6,000 meters (20,680 feet) into the sky. Planes were warned of the cloud billowing from Mount Soputan because the material can be hazardous for aircraft engines, but no evacuations were ordered in the area.
Experts said it's possible the quake accelerated the eruption, but there is no concrete evidence to prove that. Activity at the volcano had been increasing since August and began surging on Monday, Kasbani, who heads Indonesia's Vulcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation agency and uses one name, told an online news portal.
At the quake zone, water is the main issue because most of the supply infrastructure has been damaged, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York. He said the government was coordinating emergency efforts, and that U.N. and relief agencies were on the ground or en route.
Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 260 million people, is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. A powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people in August.
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