The situation in quake-stricken Central Sulawesi, in eastern Indonesia, remained grim yesterday with tens of thousands of children reported to be in "extremely precarious" condition, survivors still desperate for aid and fears mounting of a rising death toll.
Four days after the magnitude-7.4 earthquake, which was followed by a tsunami with waves up to 7m high, it is still difficult to reach the more than 61,000 people displaced across the disaster-hit areas.
At least 1,234 people are already known to have died in the provincial capital of Palu and neighbouring regencies of Donggala, Sigi and Parigi Moutong.
But the toll is likely to rise into the thousands as rescuers reach more areas, and as the telecommunication network and utilities are restored, Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, national disaster management agency BNPB's spokesman, told reporters yesterday in a press briefing.
Amid shortages of food, drinking water and medical supplies, reports have surfaced of looting and theft from abandoned shops and warehouses.
Deputy national police chief Ari Dono Sukmanto was quoted as saying that police had previously tolerated desperate survivors taking food and water from closed shops, but had now started arresting dozens of people for looting. Police were also said to have fired warning shots and tear gas to ward off people ransacking shops in Palu.
The United Nations children's agency, Unicef, has said that more than 1,000 schools have been damaged in the quake-ravaged region, affecting nearly one in five students in the province.
Unicef is appealing for US$5 million (S$6.8 million) to provide health and educational services, and has highlighted the need for ready-to-eat meals, water and sanitation materials, basic healthcare items, medicine and female hygiene kits.
Efforts also needed to be stepped up to identify children separated from their families and provide psycho-social support and educational services, it said.
The central government has dispatched disaster relief aid, but it has not been possible to reach all the survivors, The Jakarta Post reported.
The daily quoted Mr Alexander Manggabarani, 32, a resident of Tipo village in Palu, as saying that the 189 survivors in his village had to build their own shelter and look for food and water on their own.
"We have gone to the offices of the governor and mayor and to the Tadulako Military Command, but have yet to receive assistance," Mr Alexander told the newspaper.
"For the last two days, we have only been eating bananas and looking for spring water; we built makeshift tents.
"We need food supplies and medical assistance. There are many injured victims."
Survivors were also retrieving bodies on their own, he said.
President Joko Widodo on Sunday night gave the nod to foreign assistance to facilitate urgent disaster response and relief, tasking a team led by the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs to handle all matters pertaining to the aid.
Yesterday, he instructed Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto to identify Indonesia's needs and then convey them to countries willing to help.
Mr Joko has advised residents to remain calm, saying that the government is trying to restore economic activity.
"Last night, I already ordered the national police chief and Indonesian military commander to guard fuel stations and economic centres so that shops can reopen and the economy is back to normal again, allowing the rehabilitation and reconstruction to start," he told reporters.
State-Owned Enterprise Minister Rini Soemarno has also given an assurance that there will be sufficient supplies of fuel for emergency services. Speaking on the sidelines of a visit to Palu, she said state-owned oil and gas holding company Pertamina used cargo aircraft to bring fuel to the provincial capital from Tarakan, in North Kalimantan.
More than 250 aftershocks have been recorded as of Monday, following Friday's tremor.
Yesterday morning, two quakes - at magnitudes 5.9 and 6 - were recorded in quick succession off the southern coast of Indonesia's Sumba Island.