JAKARTA (Reuters) - The death toll from an quake and tsunami on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi rose to 832 on Sunday, the national disaster mitigation agency said, adding it assessed the affected area to be bigger than initially thought. Hundreds of people gathered at the wrecked eight-storey Tatura Mall searching for loved ones. Injured have been evacuated to hospitals which are nearly full.
He is looking for one small body among these dozens of corpses lying in an open courtyard at the back of the medical centre, baking under Sulawesi's fierce tropical sun.
The strong 7.5-magnitude quake struck Friday, toppling buildings and sending walls of seawater crashing into Palu, a city of about 350,000. Palu is at the head of a bay, about 10 km long and 2 km wide, which had "amplified" the wave as it was funnelled toward the city, a geophysics agency official said.
Desperate survivors turned to looting shops for basics like food, water and fuel as police looked on, unwilling or unable to intervene. "We need food, water".
Dramatic video footage captured from the top floor of a parking ramp as the tsunami rolled in showed waves bringing down several buildings and inundating a large mosque.
Ministry of Justice official Sri Puguh Utami said inmates had fled from two overcapacity facilities in Palu and another in Donggala, an area near the epicenter of the quake.
Last month, a powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people.
Indonesian president Joko Widodo was expected to travel to the region to see the devastation for himself on Sunday. "I ran without anything, no food, no water".
A Scottish charity is sending £20,000 for emergency aid to help survivors of the deadly tsunami in Indonesia.
Most of the confirmed deaths were in Palu itself and authorities were bracing for the toll to climb as connections with outlying areas are restored.
"This is extremely worrying", it said in a statement.
Indonesia is a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands home to 260 million people. The force can create devastating tsunamis like the one in Sumatra and off Japan's northeast coast in 2011.
Thousands of homes have been destroyed together with hospitals and hotels.
A double-arched yellow bridge had collapsed, its ribs twisted as cars bobbed in the water below. "I was carried about 50 metres".
A key access road had been badly damaged and was partially blocked by landslides.
With roads into Palu blocked by landslides and the town's airport damaged, getting teams of relief workers from elsewhere in Indonesia to the disaster zone was proving hard, delaying timely assistance to survivors and the arrival of heavy equipment that could save the people trapped inside downed buildings.
Looters are stealing items from a shopping mall badly damaged by a massive natural disaster and tsunami in the hard-hit Indonesian city of Palu in central Sulawesi as search and rescue efforts continue for trapped victims. Indonesia is majority Muslim, and religious custom calls for burials soon after death, typically within one day.
Indonesia sits on the ring of fire, so-called because of the shifting tectonic plates that regularly result in earthquakes and volcanoes.
More than 150 aftershocks have hit the region since the initial quake on Friday.
On Dec. 26, 2004, a magnitude 9.1 quake struck the eastern coast of Sumatra, triggering a tsunami that killed around 230,000 people as it tore along the coasts of Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand.
Rescue workers sifted through the ruins of buildings in Central Sulawesi after a powerful quake pummeled neighborhoods in the province on Friday, spawning a tsunami that swept away dozens of homes.