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Indonesia quake: Medics battle exhaustion, face Covid-19 risk

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Doctors and nurses in West Sulawesi overwhelmed amid shortage of medicines and supplies

MAMUJU, INDONESIA : Medics battled exhaustion and the risk of Covid-19 as they raced yesterday to treat scores of people injured by a devastating earthquake on Indonesia's Sulawesi island.

At least 84 were killed and thousands left homeless by the 6.2-magnitude quake that struck early Friday, reducing buildings to a tangled mass of twisted metal and concrete in the seaside city of Mamuju.

Doctors in hazard suits treated patients with broken limbs and other injuries at a makeshift medical centre set up outside the only one of the city's hospitals that remained relatively intact - one was flattened by the violent tremor.

"The other hospitals are basically paralysed," said director of West Sulawesi General Hospital Indahwati Nursyamsi.

Just a handful of doctors and nurses worked "non-stop" in the first couple of days until reinforcements arrived, although it was still barely enough amid shortages of medicine and other supplies, Ms Nursyamsi said.

"We were completely overwhelmed at one point," she said. "My nurses were also quake victims and had to help their families."

Medics scrambled to quarantine Covid-19 positive patients in a bid to prevent an outbreak at the crowded open-air triage centre. Some with coronavirus have been placed in a prayer room at the back of the hospital.

The hospital was trying to open up more rooms for surgery and erect additional tents outside to treat the injured.

But fears that another quake could bring down the building were adding to the challenges, with patients as well as some staff refusing to be inside, Ms Nursyamsi said.

"There are patients who were scared and pleaded to be taken out of the building," she added.

Nurse Agriani, 29, who came from a nearby district to help, said she had been working day and night.

"There are so many patients coming in and they need treatment for serious injuries," said the woman who, like many Indonesians, goes by one name.

"It's tiring... but it's part of my jobs as a nurse," she said.

It was unclear how many people - dead or alive - could be buried under mountains of debris, as rescuers rushed to find survivors more than three days after the disaster.

Most of the 84 dead were found in Mamuju, but some bodies were also recovered south of the city of 110,000 people in West Sulawesi province. - AFP