Hundreds dead in Palu, Donggala still out of reach
Gemma Holliani Cahya
The Jakarta Post
At least 384 people are dead, 29 missing and 540 injured as rescue teams scoured the ravaged city of Palu, Central Sulawesi, on Saturday, a day after a strong earthquake and tsunami hit the region.
“Updated numbers of the victims show that 384 people died, 29 are missing and 540 are injured. Donggala is still unreachable because communications are still cut off. A team has been dispatched to the regency,” said National Disaster and Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho at a press briefing on Saturday.
Sutopo added that the number of victims was likely to increase because the rescue teams have yet to reach other affected areas.
A string of earthquakes hit the Central Sulawesi regency of Donggala on Friday afternoon, one of which reached 7.4-magnitude on Friday at 6:02 p.m. local time.
The largest earthquake was followed by waves, which were 0.5 to 3 meters high, on parts of Donggala’s coast and Talise Beach in Palu.
Sutopo said the earthquake had knocked out seven power stations owned by state electricity company PLN in Palu and Donggala. On Saturday morning, the company managed to power up two of them.
The blackout affected cellular network across the area, making it difficult for people to communicate or agencies to gather information from the field.
“Communication networks in Donggala and Palu as well as the areas around it is not working because the electricity is cut off. There are 276 base [network] stations that cannot be used,” Sutopo told the media.
Sutopo said fixing the electricity and communication networks should be the priority right now, besides evacuating people.
“Friday’s earthquake that hit Central Sulawesi was bigger than Lombok’s. It was shallow, only at a depth of 10 kilometers. Moreover, it was followed by a tsunami that damaged areas close to the shore. We believe that the numbers of casualties will increase,” he said.
The earthquake also destroyed the biggest shopping mall in Palu along with the iconic Ponulele bridge that connected West and East Donggala.
The tsunami that followed inundated buildings near the shore and the Pesona Palu Nomoni Festival arena, which was held on Friday evening.
“Hundreds of people attended the event, and we still don’t have any news about their fate,” Sutopo said.
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