Officials scramble to rescue survivors as toll crosses 800

Volunteers filling a mass grave were instructed to prepare for a total of 1,300 victims to arrive. * AFP Getty images

A lack of machinery has slowed down the search and around 60 people are believed to still be buried under one hotel in Palu - the city of more than 300,000 where most of the dead have so far been found.

President Joko Widodo visited the region, urging a "day and night" effort to rescue survivors. Part of the problem is a lack of heavy equipment.

Many buildings collapsed and rescuers are still working to free survivors.

We are scaling up our response to reach 500,000 people with essential aid supplies like ready-to-eat food, water purification kits, and shelter packs.

On Monday, Indonesia's energy agency said it hopes to restore the electricity network within three days.

Officials fear the death toll will rise into the thousands but the number of confirmed deaths stood at 844 on Tuesday, a lot of them in the small city of Palu, 1,500 km (930 miles) northeast of Jakarta.

Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said the final death toll in the more remote regions could be in the "thousands" since many places have still not been reached.

Survivors are battling thirst and hunger, with food and clean water in short supply, and local hospitals are overwhelmed by the number of injured.

"It's devastating", she told Reuters.

Indonesia, home to 260 million people, is one of the world's most disaster-prone nations.

The ruins would be rebuilt, he said, as aftershocks rattled the region 48 hours after the natural disaster.

Pictures showed expanses of splintered wood, washed-up cars and trees mashed together, with rooftops and roads split. The Mutiara Sis Al Jufri Airport in Palu was closed for 24 hours after the tsunami but has since reopened to limited flights.

In the residential area of Patobo, there are fears that many could have been killed when 744 homes were buried in mud, Nugroho said Monday.

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Makassar is over 700 kilometres (435 miles) from Palu and Donggala.

Convoys carrying food, water and fuel awaited police escorts to prevent pilfering before heading towards the city while residents streamed out. The government has allocated 560 billion rupiah (S$51 million) for the recovery.

Views of destruction are evident everywhere in the areas struck by quake followed by awful tsunami.

"No one has come here to help", Mahmud, an elderly resident of Balaroa village, told Metro TV.

A navy vessel capable of taking 1,000 people at a time was due to be deployed to help with the evacuation.

Media footage showed chaotic scenes with officers struggling to keep order.

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. More than 800 people were killed when the quake sent a tsunami barreling into the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

The strong 7.5-magnitude quake struck Friday, toppling buildings and sending walls of seawater crashing into Palu, a city of about 350,000.

Questions are sure to be asked why warning systems set up after the 2004 disaster appear to have failed.

Willem Rampangilei, the chief of Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said the grave was dug in Palu, where the majority of the casualties have been recorded and is 33 feet by 330 feet. He blamed a fall-off in funding.

The death toll could rise even higher, officials warn, as workers clear debris, rubble and vehicles that were swept away by a massive wave of seawater on Friday.

Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has given permission for the country to accept worldwide help.

He said the European Union and 10 countries have offered assistance, including the United States, Australia and China.

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