Palu, Oct 1 (AP/UNB) — Indonesia's disaster agency says the death toll from the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit the island of Sulawesi has increased slightly to 844, and nearly 50,000 people have been displaced by the disaster.
Most of the dead were from the city of Palu, but much is still unknown about other coastal towns that have yet to be properly assessed due to impassable roads, downed power lines and phone outages. Spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the death toll increased Monday by 12 from a day earlier.
The 7.5 magnitude quake hit at dusk Friday, creating a tsunami that swept waves ashore reaching as high as 6 meters (20 feet) in some places. Many buildings collapsed and rescuers were still working to free desperate survivors. A mass burial was being held.
Thousands of desperate people, mostly women and children, have swarmed the airport in the Indonesian city of Palu in a failed bid to push their way onto an Indonesian Air Force plane days after a powerful earthquake and tsunami devastated the city.
Video footage aired by Indonesia's TVOne showed women and children, some pregnant and others carrying babies in their arms, weeping and screaming as they pleaded with military personnel to let them board a Hercules aircraft on the tarmac Monday morning.
One woman told the network, "We have not eaten for three days. We just want to be safe."
The airport has been closed to commercial traffic since the disaster struck Friday night.
TVOne reported that the minister of state-owned companies, Rini Sumarno, said the government will soon deploy ships to help survivors leave the provincial capital.
Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said the government was doing all it could to get in as much food and fuel as into Palu as it could.
A mass burial of people who died in last Friday's earthquake and tsunami in central Indonesia has begun.
Around midday Monday, teams of workers, their mouths covered by masks, carried 18 body bags and laid them in a trench. Mechanical earth-movers waited to push soil on top of the bodies.
More burials are expected to follow. The grave in Palu, a hard-hit city in Central Sulawesi province, was prepared for more than 300 bodies initially.
The toll of 832 is expected to rise as areas inaccessible since the disaster are reached. The quake and tsunami collapsed buildings and caused other severe damage in Palu and nearby communities.
Indonesia's president has authorized for the country to accept international help for the earthquake and tsunami disaster on the central island of Sulawesi.
Thomas Lembong, chair of Indonesia's Investment Coordinating Board, tweeted Monday morning that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo made the authorization.
It wasn't immediately clear what type of help was being authorized.
The toll of 800 dead in Friday's disaster is expected to grow as areas inaccessible since the disaster are reached. The quake and tsunami damaged airports, hospitals and other crucial infrastructure.
A mass burial was being prepared for more than 300 bodies in an Indonesian city hit hard by a powerful earthquake and tsunami.
The toll of more than 800 dead from Friday's disaster is mostly from Palu and is expected to grow as areas cut off by damage are reached.
National disaster agency chief Willem Rampangilei said the grave can be enlarged if needed and burials must be done soon for health and religious reasons. A majority of Indonesians are Muslim, and burials customarily take place within one day.
There was a desperate need for heavy equipment to reach possible survivors in collapsed buildings, including an eight-story hotel in Palu where voices were heard in the rubble. A survivor was found Sunday evening in the ruins of the Roa-Roa Hotel.
Canberra, Oct 1 (AP/UNB) — An airline says four passengers remain hospitalized after one of its planes crashed into a Pacific lagoon in Micronesia last week.
Air Niugini said in a statement Monday that the four are in stable condition at a Chuuk island hospital and would soon be taken to Guam for further treatment.
The Papua New Guinea national carrier says the four were among 47 passengers and crew who were evacuated from a sinking Boeing 737 on Friday after Flight PX73 crashed into a lagoon near the Chuuk International Airport runway.
The airline revealed Saturday that one of the passengers hadn't been accounted for.
An Air Niugini spokeswoman did not immediately respond on Monday to a request for an update on the search for the passenger and for details including his nationality.
Stockholm, Oct 1 (AP/UNB) — This year's Nobel Prize recipients will be revealed starting Monday with the prize for medicine or physiology.
The Nobel Assembly of the Karolinska Institute — 50 professors at the Stockholm facility — chooses the winner or winners of the prize honoring research into the microscopic mechanisms of life and ways to fend off invaders that cut it short. A maximum of three laureates are selected.
Last year's prize went to three Americans for work in identifying genes and proteins that work in the body's biological clock, which affects functions such as sleep patterns, blood pressure and eating habits.
The physics prize is to be announced Tuesday, followed by chemistry. The winner of the Nobel Peace Prize will be named Friday. No literature prize is being given this year.
Allentown, Oct 1 (AP/UNB) — A car explosion that rocked downtown Allentown left three males dead, including the likely "perpetrator," officials said Sunday as federal authorities who are leading the investigation looked ahead to autopsies.
"We know there's been a criminal incident," District Attorney James Martin told reporters at a news conference Sunday. "We have a high degree of confidence that the perpetrator was probably killed in the incident."
Authorities released no information about the possible cause of Saturday night's blast, including whether it was a bomb, but Martin said, "Loads of us in law enforcement" are confident "this was A. an isolated incident and B. there's no continuing threat."
Authorities are seeking the public's help in getting clues and asked anyone with information to call the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is leading the investigation.
The blast occurred a block from the PPL Center sports arena and two blocks from the popular Hamilton Street dining area in Allentown, a city of about 120,000 about 60 miles (95 kilometers) northwest of Philadelphia. The block where it occurred is a mixture of residences and small businesses, including a restaurant and a bar.
The FBI, state police, and city and county authorities are investigating along with the ATF.
Resident Carlos Perodin told The Morning Call of Allentown that he was watching a movie with his wife when he heard a thunderous explosion and went to the scene.
"The fire was crazy," he said. "The car was pretty much split in half."
Another witness to the aftermath of the explosion, Stephanie Connelly, told The Morning Call that she saw body parts strewn across the street.
"This is real life and I'm shaking and freaking out while I'm running," she said.
Autopsies were planned Monday on the three males found dead after the 9:30 p.m. explosion, Lehigh County Coroner Scott Grim said Sunday afternoon. Grim said he would probably be able to release the names Monday once their identities are confirmed and their families are notified.
Authorities swarmed the area after the explosion. A bus station was turned into a makeshift command center with armored vehicles, dozens of police cruisers, mobile command units and even portable bathrooms, the paper reported. Several portable tents were also erected for evidence processing.
Residents were asked to avoid the area, and people who live nearby were asked to shelter in place. A shelter was set up at an elementary school.
The FBI had earlier said it was working with other agencies and "to assess the situation and determine the cause, with public safety the bureau's highest priority." Officials asked anyone who witnessed the blast or had information about it to contact investigators.
Palu, Oct 1 (AP/UNB) — A mass burial of earthquake and tsunami victims was being prepared in a hard-hit city Monday as the need for heavy equipment to dig for survivors of the disaster that struck a central Indonesian island three days ago grows desperate.
The toll of more than 800 dead is largely from the city of Palu and is expected to rise as areas cut off by the damage are reached. The magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck at dusk Friday and spawned a tsunami said to have been as high as 6 meters (20 feet) in places.
The grave being dug in Palu for 300 victims will be 10 meters by 100 meters (33 feet by 330 feet) in size and can be enlarged if needed, said Willem Rampangilei, chief of Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency.
"This must be done as soon as possible for health and religious reasons," he said. Indonesia is majority Muslim, and religious custom calls for burials soon after death, typically within one day.
Military and commercial aircraft were delivering some aid and supplies to the region. But there was a desperate need for heavy equipment to reach possible survivors buried in collapsed buildings, including an eight-story hotel in Palu where voices were heard in the rubble. A 25-year-old woman was found alive Sunday evening in the ruins of the Roa-Roa Hotel, according to the National Search and Rescue Agency, which released photos of the her lying on a stretcher covered in a blanket.
At least 832 people were confirmed dead as of Sunday evening, Indonesia's disaster agency said, with nearly all of those from Palu. The regencies of Donggala, Sigi and Parigi Moutong — with a combined population of 1.2 million — had yet to be fully assessed.
"The death toll is believed to be still increasing, since many bodies were still under the wreckage, while many have not been reached," said disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
The cries from beneath the Roa-Roa Hotel, which appeared to have toppled over with its walls splintered like pickup sticks, went silent by Sunday afternoon. Officials had estimated about 50 people could be inside.
"We are trying our best. Time is so important here to save people," said Muhammad Syaugi, head of the national search and rescue team. "Heavy equipment is on the way."
Metro TV showed about a dozen rescuers in orange jumpsuits climbing over debris with a stretcher carrying the body of a victim from the modest business hotel.
Other rescuers worked to free a 15-year-old girl trapped under concrete in her house in Palu after it collapsed on her family during the earthquake. Unable to move her legs under the rubble, Nurul Istikharah was trapped beside her dead mother and niece. Rescuers also tried to control water from a leaking pipe, fearing she would drown.
Istikharah was unconscious during part of the effort to free her, but rescuers kept talking to her to try to keep her awake. Others offered her food and water.
Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo toured Palu on Sunday and said rescuers were having difficulty reaching victims because of a shortage of heavy equipment.
"There are many challenges," Jokowi said. "We have to do many things soon, but conditions do not allow us to do so."
He said authorities were deploying more heavy machinery so emergency workers can help recover more victims Monday.
The stricken areas also needed medical supplies, fuel, fresh water and experts.
It was 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. More recently, a powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people in August.
In Donggala, the site closest to the earthquake's epicenter, aerial footage on Metro TV showed the sugary blond sands of beaches swept out to sea, along with some buildings. Some buildings in the town were severely damaged, with plywood walls shredded and chunks of concrete scattered on the pavement. Much of the damage, however, appeared limited to the waterfront.
Palu, which has more than 380,000 people, was strewn with debris from the earthquake and tsunami. A heavily damaged mosque was half submerged and a shopping mall was reduced to a crumpled hulk. A large bridge with yellow arches had collapsed.
The city is built around a narrow bay that apparently magnified the force of the tsunami as the waves raced into the tight inlet. Nugroho, the disaster agency spokesman, said waves were reported as high as 6 meters (20 feet) in some places.
Looters hit a badly damaged shopping mall, apparently unconcerned for their safety amid ongoing aftershocks and the structure's questionable stability.
In one devastated area in Palu, residents said dozens of people could still be buried in their homes.
"The ground rose up like a spine and suddenly fell. Many people were trapped and buried under collapsed houses. I could do nothing to help," resident Nur Indah said, crying. "In the evening, some of them turned on their cellphones just to give a sign that they were there. But the lights were off later and the next day."
With hundreds injured, earthquake-damaged hospitals were overwhelmed.
Nugroho said 61 foreigners were in Palu at the time of the disaster. Most were accounted for, but one South Korean was believed to be trapped in the Roa-Roa Hotel, while three others from France and one from Malaysia were missing. The survivors were to be evacuated to the Sulawesi city of Makassar in the island's far south.
Indonesia is a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands that span a distance that would stretch from New York to London. It is home to 260 million people. Roads and infrastructure are poor in many areas, making access difficult in the best of conditions.
The disaster agency has said that essential aircraft can land at Palu's airport, though AirNav, which oversees aircraft navigation, said the runway was cracked and the control tower damaged.
Sulawesi has a history of religious tensions between Muslims and Christians, with violent riots erupting in the town of Poso, not far from Palu, two decades ago. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country.