Destinations

INDONESIA EARTHQUAKE: Death toll expected to reach thousands

The death toll of an earthquake and tsunami that hit the Indonesian city of Palu is expected to climb into the thousands, as mass burials begin for the 844 victims that have been found so far.

The magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck on Friday, followed by a massive tsunami that battered the coast of Palu on the island of Sulawesi, according to the Guardian.

Relatives are combing through body bags for their loved ones as the search for survivors continues.

Rescue teams are having to resort to “creative ways” to reach victims in remote areas, according to Jan Gelfand, the head of the Red Cross office in Jakarta, but she fears it will be a “drop in the bucket to what is needed”.

“Our teams took 12 to 15 hours to get in and so it is going to be a while before even the assessment is done before we get a true picture of the situation,” Gelfand told the Guardian.

But thanks to the heroic efforts of one air traffic controller, hundreds of people were able to make it to safety.

The ABC reported Anthonius Gunawan Agung, a 21-year-old airport worker, was the only one left in the control tower at Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu when the quake hit after his colleagues had all run for their lives.

Agung stayed to make sure Batik Air Flight 6321 was able to take off safely, even as the tower began to sway and crack.

“He gave clearance for this flight, and if he left his post before the plane was airborne, hundreds of people inside the plane might be in danger,” Yohannes Sirait, spokesman for Air Navigation Indonesia told the ABC.

The tower trembled soon after the plane took off, and Agung, thinking it would collapse, jumped off the fourth floor.

His colleagues took him to the nearest hospital but he died soon after.

Meanwhile, almost 50,000 people have been displaced and parts of the nation have been forced to halt amid recovery efforts.

Disaster agency BNBP spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told the ABC 144 foreign nationals were in Palu and Donggala at the time of the disaster.

Palu airport is expected to reopen soon to allow for aid and recovery efforts.

Featured image source: CNN.

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