Jakarta: The toll from an earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia soared to 832 confirmed dead, with authorities fearing it will only climb as rescuers struggle to reach outlying communities cut off from communications and help.
Dozens of people were reported to be trapped in the rubble of two hotels and a mall in the city of Palu, which was hit by waves as high as six metres (20 feet) following the 7.5 magnitude earthquake on Friday.
A young woman was pulled alive from the rubble of the Roa Roa Hotel, the news website Detik.com reported. Hotel owner Ko Jefry told Metro TV on Saturday that up to 60 people were believed trapped. Hundreds of people gathered at the mall searching for loved ones.
With most of the confirmed deaths from Palu, authorities are bracing for much worse as reports filter in from outlying areas, in particular, Donggala, a region of 300,000 people north of Palu and closer to the epicentre of the quake, and two other districts.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the toll could rise into the thousands.
National disaster mitigation agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference the affected area was bigger than initially thought, though rescuers only had good access to one of four affected districts – Palu.
“We haven`t received reports from the three other areas. Communication is still down, power is still out. We don`t know for sure what is the impact,” he said.
“There are many areas where the search and rescue teams haven`t been able to reach,” Nugroho said, adding that teams needed heavy equipment to move broken concrete.
Five foreigners – three French, one South Korean and one Malaysian – were among the missing, he said. The 832 fatalities included people crushed in collapsing buildings and swept to their death by tsunami waves.
Donggala town has been extensively damaged, with houses swept into the sea and bodies trapped in debris, according to a Metro TV reporter on the scene.
The Red Cross said it had heard nothing from the Donggala region.
“This is extremely worrying,” it said in a statement.
“This is already a tragedy, but it could get much worse.”
National search and rescue agency chief Muhammad Syaugi told Reuters rescuers were flying to Donggala by helicopter.
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the government had allocated 560 billion rupiah ($37.58 million) for disaster recovery, media reported.
Indonesia is all too familiar with deadly earthquakes and tsunamis. In 2004, a quake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean, killing 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.
Questions are sure to be asked why warning systems set up around the country after that disaster appear to have failed on Friday.
The meteorological and geophysics agency BMKG issued a tsunami warning after the Friday quake but lifted it 34 minutes later, drawing criticism it had withdrawn it too quickly. But officials said they estimated the waves had hit while the warning was in force.
Hundreds of people had gathered for a festival on Palu`s beach when the water smashed onshore at dusk. A disaster official said the tsunami travelled across the sea at speeds of 800 kph (500 mph) before striking the shore.
Video footage on social media showed waves surging ashore in huge swirls of debris as people scattered.
Palu is at the head of a narrow bay, about 10 km long and 2 km wide, which had “amplified” the force of the wave as it was funnelled toward the city, a geophysics agency official said.
Questions have been raised about what caused the tsunami, with speculation an underwater landslide was to blame.
The BMKG said its closest sensor, about 200 km (125 miles) from Palu, had only recorded an “insignificant”, six-cm (2.5 inches) wave, while researchers said it was surprising the quake, which was recorded as a “strike-slip” event, when tectonic plates move horizontally against each other rather than vertically, had generated a tsunami.
“It may be that the shock of the quake triggered a landslide underwater,” Abdul Muhari, who heads a tsunami research team that advises the government, told Reuters.
About 16,000 displaced people were seeking shelter and needed clean water, Nugroho said, while 540 were people were injured, many getting treatment in tents set up in the open.
Photos showed bodies lined up on a street on Saturday, some in bags and some with their faces covered by clothes.
President Joko Widodo visited Palu on Sunday to inspect the rescue.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Indonesia had not asked for help but he had contacted Widodo overnight to offer support and deep sympathies.
“It is horrifying … If he needs our help, he’ll have it,” he told ABC TV’s Insiders programme.
The military has started sending in aircraft with aid from Jakarta and other cities, authorities said.Palu`s airport was damaged in the quake, but had reopened for limited commercial flights, authorities said.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly hit by earthquakes.
In August, a series of quakes killed more than 500 people on the tourist island of Lombok, hundreds of kilometres southwest of Sulawesi.
26 killed as tour bus catches fire in China
Beijing: A tour bus caught fire in central China’s Hunan Province killing 26 people, local authorities said. The 28 injured in the incident were rushed to three local hospitals for treatment. Among them the condition of five were state to be critical, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted local officials as saying.
The accident occurred around when the 59-seater bus from neighbouring Henan province suddenly caught fire on a highway in Hanshou County in the city of Changde.
The bus had 53 passengers, two drivers and a tour guide at the time of the incident.
The two drivers were detained and an investigation into the cause of the accident is underway.
The incident came a day after 64 people lost their lives while 640 were injured in a powerful explosion at a chemical plant in eastern China. The blast occurred on Thursday following a fire in a fertilizer factory in a chemical industrial park in Yancheng, Jiangsu province, according to the government of Xiangshui county.
New Zealand bans Christchurch terrorist’s manifesto
Wellington: New Zealand has banned the possession and distribution of a manifesto believed to be written by the lone terrorist who carried out the March 15 Christchurch mosques carnage where 50 people were killed, officials said on Saturday.
The Office of Film and Literature Classification announced that the document is objectionable under the law, reports CNN.
The so-called “manifesto” of Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old Australian charged with the massacre, spans more than 80 pages and is filled with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rants.
“There is an important distinction to be made between ‘hate speech,’ which may be rejected by many right-thinking people, but which is legal to express, and this type of publication, which is deliberately constructed to inspire further murder and terrorism,” said New Zealand’s Chief Censor David Shanks. “It crosses the line.”
The document was posted on social media and was sent to the office of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern just before the shooting began.
On Thursday, Shanks called on the public to delete any copies, as well as online posts or links to the document.
People can also report any social media posts, links or websites.
“New Zealanders can all play a part in denying those who exhort hatred, killing and terror,” Shanks said.
“Do not support the murderous objectives of its author by republishing or distributing it.”
Earlier this week, authorities banned footage of the fatal shootings, including edited clips and still images.
Death toll climbs to 64 in one of China’s worst industrial blasts in years
Beijing: The death toll climbed to 64 in one of the worst industrial accidents of China in recent times which knocked down buildings, tossed children into air and caused a tremor equivalent to a magnitude-3.0 earthquake, officials said Saturday. The officials said that 24 others were missing.
The explosion occurred after a fire in the fertilizer factory in Jiangsu province on Thursday, according to the government of Xiangshui county. Thirty-four people were in a critical condition and 73 seriously injured, state-run China Daily reported. The death toll is expected to rise as several people have been critically injured.
Over 640 people were injured in the incident. More than 3,000 workers and around 1,000 residents have been relocated to safe places. The Ministry of Emergency Management said that 88 people were rescued from the scene.
Such is the scale of the devastation that the entire industrial park in the Yancheng resembled an area struck by a massive earthquake with almost all buildings demolished in one go.
It is the worst industrial accident since the massive explosion rocked the port area of Tianjin in 2015 in which 173 people were killed. The China earthquake centre reported an earthquake of 3.0 magnitude during the time of the blast. An aerial video posted by China Daily which provided the first detailed view of the area showed shocking images of the blast which has destroyed the entire neighbourhood, causing an extensive damage showcasing the destructive side of China’s unbridled industrial development.
Jiangsu Tianjiayi Chemical plant, where the blast took place, was flattened and 16 neighbouring factories were left with varying degrees of damage. The impact smashed windows and uprooted roofs of some buildings and reduced others to rubble. Officials claimed that the rivers outside the chemical industrial park were not polluted.