Indonesia seeks global help after quake-tsunami, mass prison breaks confirmed

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The Indonesian government on Monday called for international help to deal with the aftermath of a devastating series on earthquakes and a tsunami in the island region of Sulawesi that killed at least 832 people.

President Joko Widodo "authorised us to accept international help for urgent disaster-response" the government's head of investment Tom Lembong said, as dozens of aid agencies and NGOs lined up to provide live-saving assistance and the government struggled to come to terms with the sheer scale of the disaster.

Some 1,200 Indonesian convicts escaped from three different detention facilities in the devastated region of Sulawesi following the earthquake and tsunami disaster, a justice ministry official said Monday.

The mass prison break happened after the powerful tremor sparked a wall of water that devastated the small city of Palu Friday.

Ministry of Justice official Sri Puguh Utami said inmates had fled from two overcapacity facilities in Palu and another in Donggala, an area also hit by the disaster.

"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 said.

The facility in Donggala was set on fire and all 343 inmates were now on the run, Utami said.

Most of the convicts were jailed for corruption and narcotics offenses, she said.

Five people convicted of terror-related crimes had been moved from the prison just days before the disaster.