More than 800 people have died after an earthquake and tsunami struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi on Friday, September 28.
The country’s vice-president, Jusuf Kalla, has warned that figure could rise, potentially reaching into the thousands.
A 7.5 magnitude earthquake was recorded, with more than 150 aftershocks following, as well as a tsunami caused by the earthquake, wreaking devastation throughout the island.
Thousands of buildings, including houses, hotels, shopping malls and many others, collapsed during the quake. The city of Palu is, so far, the worst affected area, with most of the fatalities occurring there.
According to authorities, hundreds of bodies have been found on beaches, and there are fears that many have been washed out to sea.
At a press conference, the spokesperson for the BNBP disaster agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, said the affected area was much bigger than originally thought. They also added that access to some areas is now very difficult, making it impossible to predict the final death toll.
The deaths are believed to be still increasing since many bodies were still under the wreckage while many have not able to be reached.
In some areas, tsunami waves reached as high as six metres.
You can watching the terrifying moment a wave hit an area of Palu here:
Electricity has been cut off in Palu and the nearby area of Donggala, while drinking water and fuel are also running out. Most of the rescue efforts are being carried out by hand, as access to heavy equipment is limited.
Rescue efforts are ongoing, as people can be heard still trapped under the rubble, with dozens of people reportedly in the ruins of the collapsed Roa Roa hotel, an eight-storey building in Palu.
Hospitals are also struggling to cope, as hundreds of injured people need to be treated. BNBP have said open-air clinics have been set up to help treat the injured.
One of the first recorded casualties was 21-year-old Anthonius Gunawan Agung, an air traffic controller who was working at Palu airport when the earthquake struck.
The brave man stayed behind in the control tower, ensuring the final plane managed to safely take off, thereby saving the lives of hundreds of people.
Just moments after the last plane took off, the control tower began to crumble to the ground and Anthonius was forced to jump from a fourth story window to escape.
He suffered a broken leg from his jump and was rushed to hospital, but sadly died from internal injuries on Saturday morning.
Around 17,000 people have been evacuated from the area.
Tragically, for the victims of the tsunami, mass burials have begun in a desperate attempt to control the spread of disease. Willem Rampangilei, head of Indonesia’s national disaster mitigation agency, said the burials ‘must be done as soon as possible for health and religious reasons’, as The Guardian reports.
On Sunday, September 30, a 14-day state of emergency was declared, with Indonesian president Joko Widodo urging a ‘day and night’ effort to save as many people as possible.
Red Cross volunteers are in the affected areas, supporting search and rescue efforts and distributing vital aid. If you’d like to donate, click here.