By Adem Salvarcioglu
ANKARA (AA) – The death toll from the 7.4-magnitude earthquake and the tsunami that followed in Indonesia's Sulawesi Island late September has risen to 1,944, according to military and disaster agency officials on Sunday.
The spokesman of the joint task force for the Central Sulawesi province Col. Muh Thohir said search-and-rescue operations were still ongoing.
Over 2,600 people are receiving medical treatment in hospitals, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB).
The agency also said 67,000 houses and almost 3,000 schools were damaged while 63,000 people in tents.
The earthquake and tsunami are estimated to have caused $658 million worth of damage up to date.
Over 7,000 police officers and soldiers have join the rescue efforts in the cities of Palu and Donggala.
Meanwhile, an official from the Ministry of Law and Human Rights said 1,031 out of 1,425 prisoners had apparently escaped in disaster-hit areas.
Stating that 349 prisoners had reported their whereabouts to the authorities, Liberti Sitinjak called on the other prisoners to do the same.
On Sept. 28, a 7.4-magnitude earthquake struck Sulawesi Island, which triggered a tsunami in Donggala and Palu cities that towered up to 10 feet (3 meters) high.
Over the last two months, four earthquakes with magnitudes 7.4, 6.3, 6.9, and 7 hit the eastern island of Lombok of the Southeast Asian nation.
Indonesia lies within the Pacific Ocean’s "Ring of Fire" where tectonic plates collide and cause frequent seismic and volcanic activity.
On Dec. 26, 2004, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake struck the eastern coast of Sumatra, triggering a tsunami that killed around 230,000 people as it tore along the coasts of Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand.