Island quake searchers face rain challenge

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 18 Jan 2021

Torrential monsoon rains hampered the hunt yesterday for anyone still buried alive under buildings flattened by a huge earthquake on Indonesia's Sulawesi island.

The tremor killed at least 73 people and left thousands homeless.

Excavators and cranes were deployed across the devastated seaside city of Mamuju, where buildings were reduced to a tangled mass of twisted metal and chunks of concrete, including a hospital and the regional governor's office.

No figure was given on how many people had been found alive, and it was unclear how many people - dead or alive - could still be under the mountains of debris in the aftermath of Friday's 6.2-magnitude quake.

But scores of rescuers combed through the destruction and filled body bags with corpses. Police yesterday deployed sniffer dogs to help in the search at the hospital.

"The rain poses risks because damaged buildings could collapse if it gets too heavy, and aftershocks could move them too," said searcher Octavianto.

And moving debris too fast with heavy equipment could crush and kill buried survivors, he warned.

"All the victims we've found so far were dead," Octavianto added. "It is most likely any more victims were dead after 24 hours."

Most victims were in Mamuju, a city of 110,000 people in West Sulawesi province.

The island was hit in 2018 by a quake-tsunami disaster that killed thousands.

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