Indonesian tsunami death toll rises to nearly 1,350

Authorities warn thousands more may have died as rescue operation continues

Indonesian authorities say death toll from quake and tsunami could reach thousands
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The number of people known to have died in the devastating earthquake that hit Indonesia last week has risen to 1,347, authorities have confirmed.

Rescue workers are still sifting through floodwaters and debris left in the wake of the magnitude 7.5 quake, which struck off the coast of Sulawesi on Friday, sending a tsunami up to six metres high crashing onto the island’s northern shore.

The northeastern city of Palu and the surrounding area has been worst hit, with residents facing a fifth day without adequate supplies of food and clean drinking water, CNN reports.

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The BBC says that humanitarian relief convoys are entering the city, escorted by soldiers and police.

Local people described mudflow “rolling in like waves” in the city’s Petobo subdistrict, six miles from the shore.

An official from International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent described the situation on the ground as "nightmarish”. “Thousands of families are in desperate need of food, water, shelter and medical treatment,” the aid organisation warns.

Jan Gelfand, who heads the International Red Cross delegation in Indonesia, told reporters that search and rescue efforts are being hampered by the remote location and the extent of the damage to local infrastructure.

“There’s a large, large need [for aid], and I don't think we've quite seen the worst of things yet,” Gelfand told CNN.

The Jakarta Post reports that as many as 2,000 people may be dead in Palu alone.

Indonesian authorities have announced that the bodies of the dead will be tagged and temporarily interred in a mass grave in the hills above the city, to prevent the outbreak of disease.

The bodies are to be dug up and given individual burials at a later date.

Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) is facing heavy scrutiny in the aftermath of the disaster, The Guardian reports.

The BMGK is “standing by their decision to end the tsunami warning during the first hours of the earthquake”, after it lifted the warning just 34 minutes after the quake struck.

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