Thousands require assistance in Indonesia, many presumed dead

Indonesian vice president said that the death toll following the 10-foot tall tsunami could reach into the thousands

The wreckage in Indonesia following the earthquake and tsunami combination
The wreckage in Indonesia following the earthquake and tsunami combination

After the Indonesian city of Palu was hit by a tsunami last Friday, many lost their homes, and a total of 420 are confirmed to have lost their lives. The Red Cross and the nation's vice president believe that the number of deaths after the tragic event could be far worse than that.

After the 7.5 magnitude quake on Friday, a tsunami warning was called off. About 34 minutes later, however, the tidal wave hit the city of Palu and bodies were seen on the beach and being dragged out into the sea. 

In Palu alone, the largest city on an island in the centre of the vast Indonesia archipelago, 420 have been proclaimed dead as officials are beginning to take stock of the severe devastation experienced by the island. 

In an interview with Indonesian media, the nation's vice president, Jusuf Kalla, told the press that the death toll could reach well into the thousands as thousands more require immediate assistance.

This is because rescue teams are confronting washed-out roads and totalled bridges as they try to reach cities like Donggala, areas completely cut off after the devastating combination of earthquake and tsunami. Indonesian officials said that aid agencies and authorities were crippled in their endeavours due to battered communications, landslides and inaccessible roads. Even deliveries by sea are a struggle since the Palu port was severely damaged by the tsunami.

Donggala remains inaccessible after the main bridge collapsed.

“We’re now getting limited communications about the destruction in Palu city, but we have heard nothing from Donggala, and this is extremely worrying,” the Red Cross said in a statement. “There are more than 300,000 people living there. This is already a tragedy, but it could get much worse.”

The cities of Palu and Donggala remain without power and fuel supplies are running low. Some government planes carrying relief supplies managed to land at the main airport in Palu, although officials said it would likely remain closed to commercial flights for days.

This is Indonesia's second major earthquake in two months. Just last August an earthquake in the island of Lombok killed more than 450 people. Indonesia is prone to earthquakes because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

In December 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake off Sumatra in western Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.