Indian Air Force Begins Relief Mission To Tsunami-Hit Indonesia

Damage from the quake

Damage from the quake

The death toll jumped yesterday from a previous confirmed figure of 844.

The 7.5-magnitude natural disaster last Friday triggered tsunami waves as high as six meters (20 feet), which swept ashore at the small city of Palu and Donggala town on the west coast of Sulawesi.

Indonesian Red Cross officials have told the BBC that 34 Indonesian students whose bodies were found under a church buried by a mudslide were among those killed.

National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said 519 of the bodies had been buried.

"There is still limited information about the full extent of the disaster and it is hard to get aid and people into the affected areas", Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the main United Nations aid coordinating agency, OCHA, said in Geneva on Tuesday.

Adding to Sulawesi's woes, the Soputan volcano in the north of the island, about 600 km (375 miles) northeast of Palu, erupted early on Wednesday but there were no reports of any casualties or damage.

Residents opting to stay in the area around Soputan are being warned to wear face masks that cover the nose and mouth to avoid respiratory problems. A powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people in August, and two moderate quakes near an eastern island yesterday reportedly damaged a bridge. Since its inception, the fund has assisted hundreds of millions of people with more than $5 billion across 100 countries and territories due to the generous and consistent support from its donors. "The government is missing", Gogali said, adding that her aid group had only been able to send in a trickle of rations by motorbike.

According to the UN's humanitarian office nearly 200,000 people need urgent help, among them tens of thousands of children, with an estimated 66,000 homes destroyed or damaged by the 7.5-magnitude quake and the tsunami it spawned.

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In Palu's Petobo neighborhood, the quake caused loose soil to liquefy, creating quicksand-like mud that caused massive damage.

About 1,700 houses in one neighbourhood were swallowed up by ground liquefaction, which happens when soil shaken by an quake behaves like a liquid, and hundreds of people are believed to have perished, the disaster agency said. "Staff from UNFPA are already in Palu, and CERF money will be used to help them and other agencies meet the needs of women and girls, who we know from experience round the world are often particularly vulnerable in circumstances like this".

Soputan is on the northern part of Sulawesi island, which was devastated by the quake and tsunami on Friday.

Australia announced it will send 50 medical professionals as part of a $3.6 million aid package.

As survivors pick through the shattered remains of their neighbourhoods, the death toll continues to rise.

About 20 countries have offered help, Indonesia has said.

Nazri said the Soputan volcano eruption isn't surprising as Indonesia sits on the seismically active Pacific "Ring of Fire", and Soputan is one of the most active volcanoes on the island.

Lines to get a few liters of gasoline lasted more than 24 hours in some places.

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