Desperation and and anger at a lack of aid are mounting in Indonesia following an earthquake and tsunami which left 1,234 people dead, hundreds injured and others still trapped in the debris.

As rescuers desperately continue to search for survivors, hungry residents on the island of Sulawesi have been left begging the country's president for help and stealing food from shops in a bid to feed themselves and their families.

Four days after the disaster, teams are still searching for trapped survivors under destroyed homes and buildings, but they need more heavy equipment to clear the rubble.

Much of the attention so far has focused on the biggest affected city in the area, Palu, but thousands of people in outlying areas are still waiting for assistance which cannot get to them due to blocked roads, while downed power and phone lines are making communication difficult.

In Donggala, the frustration of waiting for days without help boiled over for some residents.

"Pay attention to Donggala, Mr Jokowi. Pay attention to Donggala," yelled one resident in a video broadcast on local television, referring to President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and the lack of aid reaching his town.

"There are still a lot of unattended villages here."

Desperation mounted four days after the disaster as more victims were found Credit: AP

The town's administrative head, Kasman Lassa, all but gave residents permission to take food, but nothing else, from shops.

"Everyone is hungry and they want to eat after several days of not eating," Mr Lassa said on local TV.

"We have anticipated it by providing food, rice, but it was not enough. There are many people here. So, on this issue, we cannot pressure them to hold much longer."

"We feel like we are stepchildren here because all the help is going to Palu," said Mohamad Taufik, 38, from the area of Donggala, who said five of his relatives are still missing.

"There are many young children here who are hungry and sick, but there is no milk or medicine."

While Palu, a city of more than 380,000, has received some aid, residents do not believe it is enough.

Signs propped along roads read “We Need Food” and “We Need Support,” while children begged for cash in the streets and long lines of cars created traffic jams as people waited for fuel.

Residents who found loved ones, alive and dead, over the weekend expressed frustration that it took rescue teams until Monday to reach the Petobo in the south of Palu.

One survivor in Palu broke down in tears as he questioned why it was taking so long for aid to arrive.

He said: "We've had a disaster but we haven't had any help".

A woman walks past the wreckage of cars which was flattened by Friday's earthquake in Balaroa neighborhood in Palu, Indonesia. Credit: AP

In Palu, numerous children are believed to be buried in a collapsed mosque because a Quran recitation group for children was being held there before evening prayers.

Agus, whose daughters aged three and 13 were at the Quran recital, was at home at the time.

He said: "Seeing the ground upside down, I knew my children couldn't survive".

The earthquake caused the ground to heave up and down violently, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

“I and about 50 other people in Balaroa were able to save ourselves by riding on a mound of soil which was getting higher and higher,” resident Siti Hajat told MetroTV, adding her house was destroyed.

In the Petobo neighbourhood, the quake caused loose, wet soil to liquefy, creating a thick, heavy mud that caused massive damage.

“In Petobo, it is estimated that there are still hundreds of victims buried in mud,” Mr Nugroho said.

Satellite images of villages in Palu show the extent of destruction across the region's infrastructure.

Satellite images of Palu shoppting mall and waterfront before and after the tsunami. Credit: AP
Palu bridge before and after the tsunami. Credit: AP

The confirmed death toll of 1,234, mostly from Palu, is expected to rise as authorities reach cut-off areas.

The regencies of Donggala, Sigi and Parigi Moutong — with a combined population of 1.2 million — had yet to be fully assessed.

50,000

The number of people forced from their homes in Palu alone.

The magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck at dusk on Friday and generated a tsunami said to have been as high as 20ft in places.

About 3,000 residents flocked to Palu’s airport, trying to board military aircraft or one of the few commercial flights using the facility only partially operating due to damage.

Reporting from the airport, ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy said it has become a "makeshift hub" for incoming aid and survivors looking to leave the area.

Video showed some of them screaming in anger because they were not able to get on a departing military plane.

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

Nearly 50,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Palu alone, Mr Nugroho said, and hospitals were overwhelmed.

The Indonesian air force confirmed that a Hercules aircraft carrying an unspecified number of survivors was able to leave Palu for South Sulawesi’s capital of Makassar.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo authorised the acceptance of international help, Mr Nugroho said, adding that generators, heavy equipment and tents were among the most-needed items.

The European Union and 10 countries have offered assistance, including the United States, Australia and China, he said.

“We will send food today, as much as possible with several aircraft,” Mr Widodo told reporters in the capital, Jakarta, adding that a supply of fuel was also set to arrive.

The powerful quake and tsunami struck Palu on Friday evening. Credit: AP

The coastline at Palu was strewn with rubble and a few brightly coloured cargo containers poking out of the water.

Buildings near the water were ruined shells. The arches of a large yellow bridge rested in the water and eerie drone footage showed a Ferris wheel, untouched, on a beach scraped bare by the waves.

Rescuers searching a collapsed building on Monday night were able to pull 38-year-old Sapri Nusin alive from the rubble.

He was talking to his rescuers as they took him away but his condition was not known.

Indonesia is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

A powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people in August.

The vast archipelago has more than 17,000 islands home to 260 million people. Roads and infrastructure are poor in many areas, making access difficult in the best of conditions.