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France promises aid as Indonesia quake toll tops 800

media Palu residents look at the damage Antara Foto/Rolex Malaha via REUTERS

France has promised aid to Indonesia after Friday's earthquake and tsunami on the island of Sulawesi. The death toll rose to 832 on Sunday and is expected to rise, with three French nationals, one Malaysian and one South Korean among the missing.

"France stands with Indonesia during this testing time and is ready to provide support in coordination with the Indonesian authorities," a statement by Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday.

The French president expressed his "sadness and solidarity" with Indonesia and the victims of the 7.5-magnitude quake.

France sent a military transport plane to deliver aid when the Indonesian island of Lombok was hit by an earthquake in August.

Affected area larger than thought

The national disaster agency said on Sunday that so far, almost all the deaths had been recorded in Palu, two days after waves 1.5 metres high slammed into the city of 350,000.

Eleven deaths had been recorded in the region of Donggala to the north of Palu, it said.

Hundreds more have been injured and thousands of homes and buildings have been destroyed.

The area affected was larger than previously believed, according to catastrophe agency spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, and the number of casualties was increasing as news arrived from remote areas.

Relief effort

Some government planes carrying relief supplies managed to land at the main airport in the city of Palu, although officials said it would likely remain closed to most commercial flights for days.

A response team of six sent by the Save the Children NGO's Indonesian partner had to arrive by sea on a navy ship from Makassar, 800 kilometres to the south, because of the damage to the local airport and roads, spokesperson Selena Patta told RFI.

Besides assessing needs for food and hygiene, the team will also provide pyschological support for children who have lost family members in the disaster, she said.

The government is flying in six field kitchens capable of producing a total of 36,000 rice plates a day and thousands of mattresses, blankets and ready to eat meals.

Search-and-rescue teams

Indonesian president Joko Widodo said the military has been called in to help search-and-rescue teams get to victims and find bodies.

Many Palu residents are still sleeping outside for fear of more aftershocks.

Hospitals were overwhelmed by the influx of those injured, with many people being treated in the open air. There were widespread power blackouts.

There were also reports of looting in supermarkets and petrol stations in the city as residents waited for desperately needed aid to arrive.

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