PALU, Indonesia (AP) - A French rescue team said Thursday it has detected a person believed to still be alive under the rubble of a hotel in Indonesia’s central Sulawesi, nearly a week after it was hit by a powerful earthquake and tsunami.
Philip Besson, a member of the French organization Pompiers de l’urgence, said the team’s high-tech sensors “detected the presence of a victim” in the wreckage of the four-star Mercure Hotel in Palu but wasn’t able to say if the person is conscious. The device is able to pick up signs of life, including breathing and heart beats, he said.
He said the five-member team only had a hand drill that was not strong enough to reach the victim, who was trapped under thick concrete, and had to abandon digging as night fell. Besson said they would bring heavy equipment early Friday to try to rescue the person.
Rescue efforts since last Friday’s quake, which killed more than 1,400 people, have been greatly impeded by a shortage of heavy equipment.
National disaster agency spokesman Supoto Purwo Nugroho said the body of a South Korean man was among eight dead pulled Thursday from the wreckage of another hotel, the Roa Roa, which collapsed sideways in a heap of cement and steel. Local television said the man, the only foreigner known to have perished in the disaster, was a paraglider taking part in an event in the area.
As the search for victims continued, aid workers raced to get shelter, food, medicine and other badly needed supplies to survivors.
The Indonesian military was bringing in hundreds more troops to help with search and rescue efforts and keep order among survivors who have grown desperate six days after their lives were thrown into chaos. Hundreds of the injured and other survivors lined up on the tarmac of Palu’s badly damaged airport, hoping to escape aboard military aircraft.
As help and supplies began arriving, there were other signs of progress: Trucks were hauling in new electricity poles to replace broken ones and restringing the wires. Workers said they intended to repair all the damage to the networks and substations and get them reconnected to the grid within days.
The United Nations announced a $15 million allocation to support relief efforts, saying more than 200,000 people were in dire need of assistance.
More than 70,000 homes are thought to have been wrecked by the quake, demolished by the tsunami or engulfed by mud slides. Thousands of people are sleeping in tents or in rough shelters made from debris, unsure when they’ll be able to rebuild. Many spend their days trying to secure basics like clean water and fuel for generators.