Red Cross report Indonesian villages have been 'wiped off the map' after quake and tsunami

The body of a tsunami victim waits for evacuation at a village heavily damaged by Friday's earthquake and tsunami in Palu today.

Latest: An entire village has been obliterated by the tsunami that hit Sulawesi last week, the Red Cross has said.

Indonesian Red Cross disaster responders who reached Petobo on the borders of Palu and Sigi found that the village, which was home to almost 500 people, no longer existed.

They have recovered the bodies of 14 people so far.

Iris van Deinse, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said: “Red Cross responders are pushing their way through debris and damaged roads to reach new areas and try to help the survivors, and they are finding devastation and tragedy everywhere.

“When we arrived in Petobo, we found that it had been wiped off the map by the power of the tsunami."

“We’re doing everything we can to bring medical treatment, clean water and support to the worst-affected areas. The survivors of this disaster have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods. We cannot let them lose hope as well.”

Access has been hampered by the destruction of roads and bridges, so the Indonesian Red Cross has emptied five of its warehouses and loaded equipment and goods onto three ships, the first of which is expected to arrive tomorrow.

It is carrying seven water trucks, five field kitchens, 947 baby kits, 10,000 mosquito nets, 650 mattresses, 3,700 hygiene kits, 12 tents, and 300 body bags.

When an Indonesian Red Cross team reached the Sigi area on Monday they found the bodies of 34 students who were attending a Bible camp when the disaster struck.

Medical teams have set up mobile health clinics in Palu, Donggala and Sigi, where doctors are treating mostly women and children suffering from open wounds, broken bones, and bruises.

Medics are reporting a rise in the number of cases of diarrhoea, stomach problems and flu linked to survivors sleeping in the streets without access to clean water.

The most urgent needs are search and rescue, medical care for survivors, food – including baby food - shelter, and clean water. Also needed are tarpaulins, blankets, health services, and communications lines to contact families and relatives.

Earlier: Volcano sends ash 20,000ft into air on Indonesian island devastated by earthquake

A volcano has erupted on the same central Indonesian island devastated by an earlier earthquake and tsunami, prompting warnings for air services over volcanic ash in the air.

Mount Soputan in North Sulawesi province spewed ash nearly 20,000ft into the sky, although there have been no evacuation orders so far.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>(PA Graphics)</figcaption>
(PA Graphics)

A government volcanologist said it is possible the eruption was accelerated by the 7.5 magnitude earthquake which struck Central Sulawesi on Friday.

“It could be that this earthquake triggered the eruption, but the direct correlation has yet to be seen as there had been an increase in the Mount Soputan activity,” Kasbani, the head of Indonesia’s Vulcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation agency, told online news portal Tempo.

Kasbani, who uses one name, said volcanic activity had been increasing at Soputan since August and began surging on Monday.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Authorities are continuing to search for possible survivors (AP)</figcaption>
Authorities are continuing to search for possible survivors (AP)

Nazli Ismail, a geophysicist at University of Syiah Kuala, Banda Aceh, on Sumatra island, stressed there is no concrete evidence to show the events are linked.

He said: “People talk about the butterfly effect. The concept is that when a butterfly flaps its wings, it can cause a catastrophe.

“So it is possible for the earthquake to trigger the volcano eruption, but it’s not conclusive. This needs to be further investigated.”

Mr Nazri said the Soputan volcano eruption is not surprising as Indonesia sits on the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire,” and Soputan is one of the most active volcanoes on the island.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Hundreds of people were killed in the quake and tsunami (AP)</figcaption>
Hundreds of people were killed in the quake and tsunami (AP)

The death toll from last week’s quake and tsunami has increased to 1,407.

National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said 519 of the bodies had been buried.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has visited the city and said aid is now starting to arrive.

Indonesia is an archipelago of more than 250 million people and government seismologists monitor more than 120 active volcanoes.

- Press Association