The death toll from the earthquake in Indonesia rises to 78 when more bodies were found

Indonesian rescue workers on Sunday recovered more bodies from the rubble of homes and buildings destroyed by a strong earthquake, which increased the number of deaths to 78, while military engineers managed to rediscover broken roads to clear access for aids.

Heavier equipment reached the hardest-hit town of Mamuju and the nearby Majene district on the island of Sulawesi, where a magnitude 6.2 earthquake struck early Friday, said Raditya Jati, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

A total of 67 people died in Mamuju and 11 in Majene, said the head of the National Search and Rescue Agency, Didi Hamzar.

Power supply and telephone communication have begun to improve in the earthquake areas.

Thousands of people were left homeless and more than 800 injured, with more than half of them still receiving treatment for serious injuries, Jati said.

The Disaster Management Agency’s data showed that almost 27,850 survivors were moved to shelter. Most of them went to temporary shelters that have been buzzed by heavy monsoon rains. Only a few were lucky enough to be protected by tarpaulin-covered tents.

They said they were in short supply of food, blankets and other assistance, as emergencies were rushed to the hard-hit region.

“We can not return to our ruined homes,” said a father of three who only identified himself as Robert. He said he escaped from his bed while being treated at Mamuju’s Mitra Manakarra Hospital, which was flattened by the earthquake. He and his family are among thousands of displaced people who took refuge in a hilly area.

He said his bed shook when he woke up and realized it was an earthquake. He then removed a drop from his hand and ran out. He had seen several nurses helping patients who could not move before the building collapsed.

“I cried when I saw the hospital where I was being treated collapse with people who are still inside. I could have died if I came out late, he said.

Rescuers managed to retrieve four survivors and four bodies from the rubble at the flattened hospital, according to the Search and Rescue Agency.

Jati said at least 1,150 houses in Majene were damaged and that the agency was still collecting data on damaged houses and buildings in Mamuju.

Mamuju, the provincial capital of nearly 300,000 people, was littered with debris from collapsed buildings. The governor’s office building was almost flattened by the earthquake and a shopping mall was reduced to a crumpled hulk.

The disaster agency said the army’s engineering corps cleared the road between Mamuju and Majene, which had been blocked by a landslide. They also rebuilt a damaged bridge.

The head of the disaster agency, Doni Monardo, said that the authorities tried to separate high and lower risk groups and provided tens of thousands of masks for refugees to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the cramped camps. He said the authorities would also set up health posts at the camps to test people for the virus.

People held in temporary shelters were seen standing close to each other, many of them without masks.

“In this emergency … it is difficult for us to follow the health protocol,” said Fatimah Zahra, a Mamuju resident who moved to a temporary shelter.

West Sulawesi province has registered more than 2,500 cases of coronavirus, including 58 deaths. Indonesia has confirmed nearly 908,000 cases and nearly 26,000 deaths.

Many on the island of Sulawesi are still haunted by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.5 that destroyed the city of Palu in 2018 and triggered a tsunami that caused the earth to collapse in a phenomenon called floating. More than 4,000 people were killed, including many who were buried when entire neighborhoods were swallowed up in the falling ground.

Indonesia, home to more than 260 million people, is often hit by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis due to its location on the Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific.

A massive 9.1 magnitude earthquake shook the western Indonesian island of Sumatra in December 2004, triggering a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

(AP)