Sulawesi M7.5 and tsunami death toll climbs to more than 2 000, Indonesia

Sulawesi M7.5 and tsunami death toll climbs to more than 2 000, Indonesia

The number of people killed in shallow M7.5 earthquake and tsunami it caused on September 28 climbed to 1 407 today, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency said October 3, 2018.

An estimated 66 000 homes have been destroyed or damaged, thousands injured and thousands more feared dead after landslides hit inland areas. 

Rescue efforts have been hampered by lack of heavy machinery and destroyed transport links, making food, water, fuel and medicine slow to reach the hardest-hit areas.

The UN's humanitarian office said almost 200 000 people need urgent help.

While coastal areas took heavy damage because of the tsunami, the satellite images provided by NASA's Earth Observatory also reveal three large inland flows of mud that caused severe damage in densely populated areas of Palu.

Intense shaking from the earthquake may have triggered liquefaction and lateral spreading, processes in which wet sand and silt takes on the characteristics of a liquid. These processes, which are especially common near streams and on reclaimed land, can produce destructive mudslides even in relatively flat areas.

Scientists were surprised that the earthquake generated such a big tsunami. Normally, large tsunamis occur after megathrust earthquakes that cause vertical displacement. But the Sulawesi earthquake occurred along a strike-slip fault, meaning the motion was horizontal.

Some scientists suspect that a submarine landslide, shaken loose by the earthquake, may have provided the energy that fueled the destructive tsunami. In addition, the narrow, finger-like shape of Palu Bay likely amplified the fast-moving surge of water and made it even more dangerous.

October 7

The death toll rose to 1 763. Officials fear at least 5 000 people may still be missing. 

October 9

The death toll has climbed to 2 010, officials said October 9.

Nugroho said authorities will hold prayers on Thursday, October 11 to mark the end of the search in the Petobo, Balaroa and Jono Oge areas of Palu city, where the quake caused the loose soil to liquefy, swallowing houses and burying the occupants with them.

While the official search will end authorities will not stop villagers from continuing to dig through the ruins for their loved ones.

October 14

The death toll rose to 2 095, Nugroho said October 14. 4 612 people were seriously injured, 680 are missing and 78 994 are displaced.

December 5

The number of casualties stands at 2 101.

Featured image credit: Tezar Kodongan / The Guardian

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