The death toll from a devastating earthquake and tsunami on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi has soared to 832, the country’s national disaster agency says.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for Indonesia’s National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB), offered the new tally — up from a previous 384 — in a news briefing in the capital, Jakarta, on Sunday.
He added that 540 other people had also been injured, and the death toll was expected to rise further as contact had yet to be restored with some affected areas.
Nugroho said many people were trapped in the rubble of the buildings brought down in the 7.5-magnitude earthquake, which struck on Friday and triggered tsunami waves as high as six meters.
Emergency efforts continue to find possible survivors in remote areas and search-and-rescue (SAR) teams struggle to deploy heavy equipment to get to the victims, according to the spokesman.
“We’re expecting a rise in the number of dead victims, though we hope the data remains as it is. However, looking at the conditions there, there are still bodies unidentified as well as victims buried under ruins. There are also remote areas yet to be reached by joint SAR teams,” Nugroho said.
About 16,000 displaced people need clean water, and many of the injured are getting treatment in makeshift tents, he added.
The death toll had been reported to be 384 on Saturday, with many of the victims swept away by giant waves as they played on the beach.
Hundreds of people had gathered for a festival on Palu’s beach when the wall of water smashed onshore at dusk on Friday, sweeping many of them to their deaths.
Drone footage shared with Reuters also showed massive devastation in residential areas in the coastal city of Palu on Indonesia’s central Sulawesi Island.
Nugroho described the damage as “extensive,” with thousands of houses, hospitals, shopping malls, and hotels collapsed, a bridge washed away, and the main highway to Palu cut due to a landslide.
With confirmed deaths only from Palu, Indonesian authorities are bracing for much worse as initial reports are emerging from densely-populated areas, in particular Donggala, a region of 300,000 people north of Palu and closer to the epicenter of the quake.
Indonesia’s Vice President Jusuf Kalla has said the toll could rise into the thousands.
Palu was hit by tsunamis in 1927 and 1968.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is regularly hit by earthquakes. In August, a series of major quakes claimed the lives of more than 500 people on the tourist island of Lombok and destroyed dozens of villages along its northern coast.