Indonesia Death Toll Passes 1,500: Body Bags Line Roads, Smell 'Almost Unbearable'

Survivors of Indonesia's earthquake and tsunami share their stories in a CNN video published on October 4, 2018.
Survivors of Indonesia's earthquake and tsunami share their stories in a CNN video published on October 4, 2018. | (Screenshot: CNN)

Scenes of body bags lining roads, with the smell becoming "almost unbearable," are emerging from Indonesia, as the death toll from last week's earthquake and tsunami has climbed to over 1,500.

"In Balaroa village, on the outskirts of Palu, everything is destroyed. The streets are ruined and there's no water or sanitation facilities for people gathered in shelters. Most families only have one tarp and one mat," said Catholic Relief Service aid worker Fatwa Fadillah, who is on the ground near Palu, one of the worst-hit areas.

"At Talise beach, where the tsunami came ashore, it's a scene of devastation and search and rescue teams are still looking for survivors. All along the coast, you can see just how massive the tsunami was and the extent of the damage. Body bags are lining the road and the smell is almost unbearable," Fadillah added.

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"It's extremely hot and most people are sitting under tarps, just waiting. They're waiting for aid and the sun to go down. They have nothing to do but wait."

Reuters reported on Friday morning that the official death toll from the 7.5-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that followed stands at 1,571, but it is expected to rise further.

Ichsan Hidayat, a survivor on Sulawesi island, said that the bodies of his sister and her 43-day-old daughter were found under the debris. The mother was clutching her baby to her chest.

"Today, I prayed that they are in a better place. They deserve better," Hidayat, a Muslim, said.

Petobo resident Hasnah said that more than half of her family is gone.

"I can't even count how many. Two of my children are gone, my cousins, my sister, my brother-in-law and their children, all gone," the 44-year-old woman said through tears.

Rescue workers are still pulling out bodies from the five-story Mercure Hotel on the Palu coast, which collapsed last Friday.

Martinus Hamaele told CNN he was looking for his 20-year-old daughter, Marienne, but there are no signs of her. Marienne's brother, Frets Ferdinand Hamaele, insisted that the family is not giving up hope, however.

"It's already been six days. For ordinary humans, it's probably impossible that she's still alive," the brother said. "But we never give up hope. At least we can get her body. And if God grants our hope, then she is still alive."

Several major Christian charities have joined efforts in the U.K. as part of the Disasters Emergency Committee's Indonesia appeal. The committee said Thursday that 200,000 people are in urgent need of clean water, food, medical care and shelter.

"DEC member charities and their local partners are working closely with the Indonesian authorities to get aid to those who urgently need it, as well as helping survivors to cope with the trauma of the last few days," said DEC Chief Executive Saleh Saeed.

"As the full scale of the disaster unfolds, they are providing emergency relief and are ready to help devastated communities to rebuild their lives. There is an urgent need for clean drinking water, food, medical care and shelter. Please give generously and let's save the survivors."

The aid agencies joining forces include: Action Against Hunger, ActionAid UK, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide UK, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Oxfam GB, Plan International UK, Save the Children UK, Tearfund and World Vision UK.

Follow Stoyan Zaimov on Facebook: CPSZaimov

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