Indonesians turn to Facebook in desperate hunt for loved ones missing in Sulawesi quake

People search through debris following an earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Indonesia, on Sept 30, 2018.
People search through debris following an earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Indonesia, on Sept 30, 2018.PHOTO: ANTARA FOTO VIA REUTERS

JAKARTA (AFP, REUTERS) - Indonesians desperate to trace loved ones missing in the earthquake and tsunami that struck the island of Sulawesi are turning to social media sites like Facebook to aid their search.

With the scale of the disaster still unclear, telecommunications patchy and some areas still out of reach, families are posting photos, descriptions of lost family members and contact numbers in the hope of learning more.

The death toll has soared to 832 and could climb higher, the disaster agency said Sunday (Sept 30).

So far, it said, almost all the deaths had been recorded in the city of Palu, which was hit by waves as high as six metres following the 7.4 magnitude earthquake on Friday. Eleven deaths had been recorded in the region of Donggala to the north of Palu.

"Have you seen any of my family members in these photographs?" asks one user on one Facebook group with 6,843 members.

"I want to know if they are safe there. I haven't got any information on them until this moment. Connection is still cut off. Let me know if you see them."

Others are trying to help friends still in Palu, the city believed to be the worst-affected.


"Please help, anybody in Palu and areas near the city. Family members of my friend are still missing until now," says one post asking for information about a father, mother and a toddler living in the city.

Some users share information about Palu residents who have been evacuated to a safe area.

A September 29 post gave the names of some 53 citizens who have been evacuated to an office of PLN - Indonesia's state-run electricity firm - along with a plea for help.

"Evacuees here are in dire need of food, water and electricity generator," the post said.

Some Indonesians turned to the page simply to offer support.

A user who appears to be from Lombok - an Indonesian resort island hit by a series of major earthquakes in July and August - had a message of solidarity.

"Your sorrow is ours. Your wailing is ours. Hopefully dead victims are buried in the most beautiful place. Our prayers are always with you," said the post from Eddie Moodmakerzz.

While many still hope for updates from missing relatives, some appear desperate enough to offer instructions should their corpses be found.

"If someone locates her dead body, please do not bring her to the mass grave because we will pick her up," said a Facebook post, mentioning the person's name.