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Earthquakes

Photos show people emptying damaged shopping centre after quake and tsunami

People did not appear to be concerned about their safety, despite building’s questionable stability

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 September, 2018, 1:30pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 September, 2018, 1:39pm

Rescue teams in Indonesia were scrambling Sunday to reach trapped victims screaming for help from collapsed buildings, while people risked entering an unstable shopping centre to grab whatever they could find after a massive earthquake spawned a tsunami that left more than 400 dead.

People were seen removing goods from the damaged shopping centre in Palu that was not being guarded.

They did not appear to be concerned about their safety, despite ongoing aftershocks and the structure’s questionable stability.

Photos also showed people in Palu removing petrol from a large fuel truck.

A tsunami as high as three meters hit Indonesia’s island of Sulawesi on Friday after a magnitude 7.5 quake damaged thousands of buildings on the hard-hit city of Palu and caused a major power failure and cut communication.

On Sunday, residents were also seen returning to their destroyed homes, picking through waterlogged belongings, trying to salvage anything they could find.

Large queues also formed as citizens waited in the tropical heat for life-giving water, and the basic sustenance of instant noodles.

Essential supplies have been constricted by a tsunami that mowed down shops, overturned cars and ripped up parts of a coastal road in central Sulawesi.

The wave pushed a tangled mess of corrugated steel roofing, timber, rubble and flotsam some 50 metres inland. Elsewhere it uprooted trees and downed powerlines.

Just outside the city, families huddled under makeshift shelters built out of salvaged bamboo, tree branches and tarpaulins.

Some cooked on open fires and hundreds took up residence on a football field.

But many in Palu have decided to leave. A steady crowd of trucks, cars and motorcycles – weighed down with belongings – could be seen streaming out of the city.

Routes in and out of the city have fallen victim to landslides triggered by the quake, reducing roads in some parts to single lanes barely wide enough for a car to pass.

For many residents trapped in this battle for survival, there is the added pain of scouring the rubble, the detritus and the hospitals for loved ones.

It’s the latest natural disaster to hit Indonesia, which is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 earthquake off Sumatra island in western Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries. Last month, a powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse