The death toll from Indonesia’s quake and tsunami disaster nearly doubled to 832 Sunday and was expected to rise further, prompting authorities to announce mass burials in a desperate attempt to stave off disease.
As shattered survivors scoured make-shift morgues for loved ones, and authorities struggled to dig out the living or assess the scale of the devastation beyond the city of Palu, grim warnings came that the eventual toll could reach thousands.
“The casualties will keep increasing,” said national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, whose agency announced the jump in the toll from 420 earlier.
“Today we will start the mass burial of victims, to avoid the spread of disease.”
Rescuers on Sulawesi island raced against the clock and a lack of equipment to save those still trapped in the rubble, with up to 60 people feared to be underneath one Palu hotel alone. Rescuers said they heard voices and a child’s cries from under the rubble.
Desperate survivors, now facing a third straight night sleeping outdoors, turned to loot shops for basics like food, water and fuel as police looked on, unwilling or unable to intervene.
The government was left with little option but to promise it would reimburse owners.
“Record everything was taken, inventories it. We will pay for it all,” said security minister Wiranto, who like many Indonesians goes by one name. -AFP