Fresh Earthquakes Strike Disaster-Hit Indonesia

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Earthquakes continued to rattle Indonesia Tuesday, with fresh tremors registered in disaster-wracked Sulawesi and in another island to the south, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The latest jolts come four days after a powerful quake and tsunami claimed at least 1,234 lives, officials say.

Tuesday’s quakes struck in rapid succession early in the morning.

In Sumba, an island of 750,000 people, the jolts began just after 7 a.m. local time. Over the next hour, the quakes escalated until a 6.0-magnitude tremor struck around 8 a.m., followed by a 5.9-magnitude quake 15 minutes later. Two smaller tremors followed in the afternoon.

People were panicking when the first quake happened and ran out of the hotel,” Defis Rinaldi, a staffer at the Padadita Beach Hotel, told Agence France-Presse.

Besides an impaired bridge, there were no immediate reports of damage, and no reports of casualties.

About 1,000 miles to the north, more shocks continued to grip Sulawesi, which is reeling in the aftermath of twin disasters on Friday: a 7.5-magnitude earthquake and a tsunami that triggered 20-foot waves of water.

Another blow landed on devastated Palu, a sleepy city on Sulawesi that has born the brunt of the damage, around 7:45 a.m. Tuesday. A shallow, 5.2-magnitude quake struck just 16 miles to the north. This was followed by a 5.0-magnitude strike around 1 p.m. These tremors are the latest of over 170 aftershocks since Friday’s mega-quake, which was the most devastating earthquake to hit Indonesia since 2004.

Rescuers are struggling to provide emergency relief in Sulawesi where looting and chaos have reportedly erupted in the wake of the disaster. The confirmed death toll was 1,234 on Tuesday, but expected to rise as responders comb more isolated areas and find people trapped by rubble.

The bodies of 34 students were found Tuesday in a church in Sulawesi that was engulfed in a mudslide, AFP reports. They were among a group of 86 students reported missing from a Bible camp in the Jonooge Church Training Center. The whereabouts the other 52 students is not yet known.

Indonesia Red Cross spokeswoman Aulia Arriani told AFP the search and rescue missions are up against arduous conditions.

“The most challenging problem is traveling in the mud as much as 1.5 hours by foot while carrying the bodies to an ambulance,” she said.

Authorities struggled this week to find heavy machinery in a fight against time to unearth remaining survivors. Thousands are also in urgent need of food, water and medical supplies.

Nearly 50,000 people have been displaced from Palu alone, and hospitals on the tropical island are overwhelmed, the Associated Press reports.

A representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) called the situation “nightmarish.”

“The city of Palu has been devastated,” Jan Gelfand, IFRC Country Cluster Support office chief, said in a statement.

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