Tsunami Hits Indonesia, Leaving More Than 300 Dead

The standing remains of a mosque is seen amid waters from a tsunami surge in Palu Indonesia's Central Sulawesi

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman of the national disaster mitigation agency, told a news conference on Sunday that 821 of those killed were in the city of Palu.

"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.

The Red Cross said staff and volunteers were heading to the affected areas.

Video on social media showed water bearing whirls of debris rushing in as people shouted in alarm and scattered.

The government was left with little option but to promise it would reimburse owners.

He said authorities were deploying more heavy machinery so emergency workers can help recover more victims Monday.

One survivor, Adi, said he was hugging his wife by the beach when the tsunami wave - which measured up to 6m (20ft)- struck land. He has no idea where she is now, or whether she is alive. Mr. Nugroho, bemoaning a fall in funding, said no tsunami buoys, one type of instrument used to detect the waves, in Indonesia had been operating since 2012.

An AFP reporter on the scene saw widespread damage some 50 metres inland. I couldn't hold anything.

"I'll keep searching for him until I find him", he says.

Others have centred their search around open-air morgues, where the dead lay in the baking sun - waiting to be claimed, waiting to be named.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo toured Palu on Sunday.

But disaster agency spokesman Nugroho indicated sheer power of will may not be enough.

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Rescue crews were working to free a 15-year-old girl trapped under concrete in her house after it collapsed on her family during the quake.

Still, as dire as the situation in Palu was, it was at least clear.

The number of dead after Friday's disaster on the island of Sulawesi stands at 832 but authorities fear many more bodies will be found in remote areas - possibly thousands.

Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said the final death toll in the north of Sulawesi island could be in the "thousands" since many regions have still not been reached.

While numerous injured are being treated at local hospitals, according to CNN, at least one hospital has been structurally compromised, resulting in some of the injured being cared for in the street.

Multiple powerful and shallow quakes of 6.0, 7.4 and 6.1 magnitude followed by a tsunami devastated the central province on Friday. Roads and infrastructure are poor in many areas, making access hard in the best of conditions.

According to the AP, aid and supplies were being flown in by military and commercial aircraft, but the damage in other areas near the earthquake's epicenter was uncertain.

"Worryingly, the National Disaster Management Agency has said they've received no information from the district of Donggala, which is closer to the epicentre of the quake", said Helen Szoke of Oxfam, referring to a region that is home to around 300,000 people. A correspondent for a local newspaper said on his Facebook page that at least three other hotels with guests in it have also collapsed.

"We are having difficulty deploying heavy equipment to find victims under the rubble of buildings because numerous roads leading to Palu city are damaged", he was quoted by the Kompas newspaper as saying. "A landslide has blocked the Trans-Palu-Poso-Makassar road", Sutopo said.

"People here need aid - food, drink, clean water", said Anser Bachmid, a 39-year-old Palu resident.

The initial quake struck as evening prayers were about to begin in the world's biggest Muslim majority country on the holiest day of the week, when mosques are especially busy.

The state energy company said it was airlifting in 4,000 liters of fuel to help with the rescue effort, while the state logistics agency said it was preparing to send hundreds of tonnes of rice.

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