Indonesia struggles to recover economy, maintain order in tsunami-hit Palu

Body bags after Indonesia disaster

Image His body is buried with others in a sandy pit

MANILA- The Philippines on Friday extended its sympathies to Indonesia following the devastating natural disaster and tsunami that left at least 1,500 dead in Palu, Central Sulawesi.

Palu city on Sulawesi island has been left in ruins after it was hit by a powerful quake and a wall of water which razed whole neighbourhoods to the ground, with the official death toll now 1,571.

Thousands of others were injured and more than 70,000 people have been moved to shelters and makeshift tents that have sprouted across Palu, the provincial capital that's home to 380,000 people, and its surrounding areas.

The national disaster agency says 1,700 homes in one neighbourhood alone were swallowed up and hundreds of people killed.

However, global efforts to help are gearing up, after the government overcame a traditional reluctance to take foreign aid.

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The U.N. says its humanitarian office is reporting that "needs are vast" following the quake and tsunami in Indonesia, with people urgently requiring shelter, clean water, food, fuel and emergency medical care.

The latest quake was probably triggered by an underwater landslide, rather than a violent, vertical land motion that displaces a high volume of sea water and is most common in earthquakes in the region, she said.

Several non-governmental groups were also arriving.

The disaster reduced buildings in the seaside city of Palu to rubble but, with transport links badly affected, aid has been slow to arrive and looting has broken out.

Many victims might have survived with faster help, said Palu resident Bambang. Of the more than 1,500 people who were killed in the catastrophe, the vast majority hailed from the city of almost 300,000.

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Most of the casualties were recovered in Palu and the districts of Donggala, Sigi and Parigi Mountong. "In the area to the south, because there hasn't been an evacuation, we don't know if there are bodies".

"Logistics are in and continue to spread, there are places that we haven't reached", he said.

"I understand that they need food, but they should have been able to provide themselves with food since their area was not destroyed by the natural disaster", said Ali. "I couldn't hold back my tears".

"The government of Indonesia is experienced and well-equipped in managing natural disasters, but sometimes, as with all other countries, outside help is also needed", United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator Mark Lowcock said in a statement.

Global aid offers have picked up since Jakarta's belated request for help, with the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund announcing late on Tuesday that it was releasing US$15 million (RM62.11 million) in aid.

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Indonesia and its 18,000 islands are located along the Pacific Ocean's "Ring of Fire" and are frequently struck by quake, volcano and tsunami activity.

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