PALU, Indonesia (AP) - The official death toll increased to 1,407 on Wednesday, with thousands injured and more than 70,000 displaced from their homes, said national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. He said the number of dead would increase, but that rescue crews had reached all affected areas.
The U.N. humanitarian office estimated that some 200,000 people need assistance in the disaster zone and announced a $15 million allocation to bolster relief efforts. Help has been slow to reach many victims, especially those living in areas cut off by impassable roads. But large fuel and food conveys, guarded by security forces, have been making their way in.
Miles of coastline spreading out from Palu are a surreal landscape of debris, beached boats, upturned cars and the foundations of obliterated houses.
All that remained of many beachside homes was their foundations. Wrecked houses still standing were spray painted with appeals for aid. On the wall of one dwelling, “Help us Mr. President” was scrawled in big lettering.
The town of Donggala to the northwest of Palu was relatively unscathed. A few houses had collapsed and a couple of large boats were beached. Residents were relaxed and smiling in contrast to the anguish and tension evident across Palu.
Experts said it’s possible the quake accelerated the eruption, but there is no concrete evidence to prove that. Activity at the volcano had been increasing since August and began surging on Monday, Kasbani, who heads Indonesia’s Volcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation Agency and uses one name, told an online news portal.
More than 25 countries offered assistance after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo appealed for international help. He visited the disaster zone Wednesday, saying there’s still work to be done, but that conditions were improving with businesses starting to reopen, helping people to start returning their lives to normal. He said U.S. President Donald Trump called him Tuesday night, offering assistance.
Australia announced it will send 50 medical professionals as part of a $3.6 million aid package.