Death toll from Indonesia quake and tsunami now 1,234

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Desperation exploded into anger four days after an quake and tsunami decimated parts of the central Indonesian island of Sulawesi, leaving hungry residents grabbing food from damaged stores on Tuesday and begging the president for help.

The official death toll surged to 1,234, the national disaster agency said.

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

A man carries recovered items from the damaged warehouse from Friday's tsunami at a neighborhood in Donggala, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018.

Grim warnings came that the eventual toll could reach thousands.

Now, the country is carrying out mass burials in an attempt to stop disease spreading, ABC reports. More burials were expected to follow.

Rescuers on Sulawesi island raced against the clock and a lack of equipment to save those still trapped in the rubble, with up to 60 people feared to be underneath one Palu hotel alone.

Teams were searching for trapped survivors under destroyed homes and buildings, including a collapsed eight-story hotel in Palu, but they needed more heavy equipment to clear the rubble.

They are bringing food, water and other supplies to the affected area. Authorities said tens of thousands of people were growing increasingly desperate for food, fuel and water.

Nugroho said more aid was being distributed, but "we still need more time to take care of all the problems". "We have anticipated it by providing food, rice, but it was not enough".

"We feel like we are stepchildren here because all the help is going to Palu", said Mohamad Taufik, 38, from the town of Donggala, who said five of his relatives are still missing.

The frustration of waiting for days without help boiled over for some. He has no idea where she is now, or whether she is alive.

"It's devastating", she told Reuters. "I was carried about 50 metres. I couldn't hold anything", he said. Nugroho said water was reported as high as 6 meters (20 feet) in some places.

"This morning I went back to the beach, I found my motorbike and my wife's wallet".

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Palu , the capital of Central Sulawesi province, is home to more than 380,000 people and is built around a narrow bay. Amateur video footage showed trees, buildings and a communications tower being swept through a rural landscape.

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Others have focused their search for loved ones around open-air morgues, where the dead lay in the baking sun - waiting to be claimed, waiting to be named.

"Grieve for the people of Central Sulawesi, we all grieve together", President Joko Widodo said on Twitter late on Sunday.

Cars swept to their current location by a tsunami, which was triggered by an quake on September 28, are seen in Palu, Indonesia's Central Sulawesi on October 1, 2018.

The death toll has reached 1,234 with thousands more feared dead underneath rubble and in areas rescuers can not reach.

Indonesia's Metro TV broadcast aerial footage from the southern suburb of Petobo, where the devastation appeared extensive.

People are "very afraid" to return to their homes because they fear aftershocks, Siregar said.

"When it shook really hard, we all ran up into the hills", a man identified as Iswan said.

Save The Children programme director Tom Howells said access was a "huge issue" hampering relief efforts.

"The Indonesian Red Cross is racing to help survivors [in Donggala], but we don't know what we'll find there", said Jan Gelfan, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

One of the guests at the hotel was a 39-year-old South Korean national, according to the South Korean embassy in Indonesia. There are large areas in the remote north that have yet to be accessible to rescue teams.

A collapsed bridge is pictured in Palu, in Indonesia's Central Sulawesi province, on October 1, 2018. The majority of Palu's inhabitants are Muslim.

Indonesia, which sits on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, is all too familiar with deadly earthquakes and tsunamis.

In December 2004, a massive magnitude 9.1 quake off Sumatra island in western Indonesia triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

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