Britain sending experts to Indonesia in aftermath of devastating earthquake 

Britain will send a team of aid experts to Indonesia after its government made a plea for help in dealing with the aftermath of the devastating Sulawesi earthquake. 

The official death toll has risen to 844 and mass graves are now being dug on the island as hundreds of victims remained unburied four days after the disaster occurred.

The Department for International Development (DfID) confirmed five British aid workers will be deployed, along with £2 million of support to help the thousands left homeless.

It is unclear whether the Britons, who will act as humanitarian advisers, will move around with support from the Indonesian military or the UK’s Ministry of Defence.

The British government is reportedly considering deploying other operational assets in the area to further assist relief efforts. The Royal Navy is understood to have  two ships in the region, a helicopter and an RAF C-17 aircraft which could be called upon. 

Penny Mordaunt, the International Development Secretary, said on Monday: "The UK offers its deepest condolences to those affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia which has left hundreds of people dead and thousands more homeless and in need of urgent help.

"I have made an initial £2 million of UK aid support available to help meet immediate needs of the most vulnerable people."

Thirty-four young children at a Christian camp were revealed on Monday to be among the victims of the devastating 7.5 magnitude earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia.

Indonesian Red Cross spokeswoman Aulia Arriani said a church in the area of Sigi district, south of the badly damaged city of Palu on Sulawesi island, has been engulfed in mud and debris. Officials said the area suffered liquefaction, when the shock of the quake temporarily destabilised the soil.

Dozens of people were reported to be trapped in the rubble of several hotels and a mall in Palu. Hundreds more were feared buried in landslides that engulfed villages.

Of particular concern is Donggala, a region of 300,000 people north of Palu and close to the epicentre of the quake, and two other districts, where communications have been cut off.

As fuel, water, food and medical supplies ran out, thousands of desperate residents gathered at Palu airport trying to escape. Footage showed people screaming in anger because they were unable to board military aircraft.

Elderly survivors wait to board an aircraft at the airport in PaluCredit:
Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images 

“We have not eaten for three days!” one woman yelled. “We just want to be safe.”

In the increasingly chaotic situation, some 1,200 prisoners escaped from three different detention facilities in the panic which followed the aftermath of the quake.

"Things were initially fine…but not long after the quake, water erupted from under the prison yard causing prisoners to panic and then run onto the road," said Ministry of Justice official Sri Puguh Utami, adding that the water was not from the tsunami.

"I’m sure they escaped because they feared they would be affected by the earthquake. This is for sure a matter of life and death for the prisoners," she added.

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