The first wave of rescuers and emergency aid arrived yesterday in Palu, Central Sulawesi, as the Indonesian province begins to count its losses after it was hit by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake a day earlier.
Aftershocks from the quake on Friday also triggered a tsunami with 3m-high waves, which led to widespread damage to buildings and a mounting death toll.
As of yesterday, at least 405 people have died, including a young air traffic controller (ATC) who stayed behind to guide the last flight out of the city. The death toll could rise to thousands, said Vice-President Jusuf Kalla.
Indonesia's national disaster management agency BNPB said about 540 others were injured, with 29 reported missing.
"This is only in Palu, we have not received any data from Donggala," said the agency's spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho yesterday.
Donggala regency is a 30-minute drive from Palu. As it is nearer the epicentre of Friday's quake, rescuers are fearing the worst.
FEARING THE WORST
This is only in Palu, we have not received any data from Donggala.
MR SUTOPO PURWO NUGROHO, spokesman of Indonesia's national disaster management agency BNPB. Donggala regency is a 30-minute drive from Palu. It is nearer the epicentre of Friday's quake; rescuers are fearing the worst.
Jakarta is scrambling to send aid to the affected areas. National emergency response teams were having difficulty getting to Palu earlier because the strong tremors had caused deep cracks across part of the airport runway.
Overland travel in Palu, and possibly to Donggala, has also been hampered after some 800km of infrastructure such as roads and bridges were damaged.
AirNav Indonesia, however, managed to put up markers on a 2km undamaged stretch of tarmac yesterday for aircraft to land with emergency supplies and personnel.
A total of 13 planes and helicopters have landed at the Mutiara SIS Al-Jufrie airport as of yesterday to deliver basic necessities, power generators, as well as medical teams to assist the local authorities.
These included aircraft to evacuate those seriously injured for medical treatment and to transfer the body of the ATC who died of injuries yesterday, said AirNav spokesman Yohanes Harry Sirait.
Mr Anthonius Gunawan Agung, 21, was on duty at the Mutiara SIS Al-Jufrie airport control tower during the time of the earthquake.
"When the earthquake occurred, he had just cleared a Batik Air flight for take-off and waited for the aircraft to be safely airborne before finally leaving the ATC cabin tower," said Mr Yohanes.
After the flight was cleared, Mr Anthonius found himself trapped and was forced to jump from the four storey-tall tower as the tremors grew stronger. As a result, he suffered a broken leg and other internal injuries, and died while waiting to be evacuated by helicopter.
Yesterday, AirNav director Novie Riyanto said Mr Anthonius will be given a double promotion posthumously for his dedication.
The Indonesian military and police have set up field hospitals in Palu but relief and rescue efforts are expected to be ramped up in the days ahead.
Singapore President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have written to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to convey their condolences.
"On behalf of the people of Singapore, I extend my heartfelt sympathies to the families affected by the earthquakes and tsunami that struck Central Sulawesi," wrote Madam Halimah yesterday.
PM Lee also expressed his heartfelt condolences to the people of Indonesia and to the families affected by the earthquakes and tsunami.
"Singapore stands ready to render any assistance to support Indonesia's ongoing relief efforts," wrote PM Lee.
"I am confident that Indonesia will make a quick and strong recovery from this unfortunate tragedy."
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement yesterday that it is monitoring the situation closely.
"As there may be more aftershocks, Singaporeans in Central Sulawesi and surrounding regions should take the necessary safety precautions, monitor the local news for updates, and heed the advice of the local authorities," said a spokesman.