Published: Tue, October 09, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

At mass grave above Indonesian city, many questions linger

At mass grave above Indonesian city, many questions linger

The death toll from the devastating quake and tsunami on Indonesia's Sulawesi island neared 2,000 on Monday, but thousands more are believed unaccounted for and officials said search teams plan to stop looking for victims later this week.

Officially, Mr Nugroho said only 265 people are confirmed missing and 152 others still buried under mud and rubble, nine days after the magnitude 7.5 natural disaster and powerful tsunami hit Palu and its surrounding areas.

Indonesian man chat on top of the rubble at Petobo neighbourhood, which was wiped out by earthquake-triggered tsunami, in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018.

"If a victim is not found after 14 days, then they will be declared missing", he said.

"It is impossible to rebuild in areas with high liquefaction risk such as Petobo and Balaroa", he said, adding villages there will be relocated.

He said that many people are still afraid of been trapped in the ruins in Palu, the provincial capital, and the districts of Donggala and Sigi.

The disaster struck part of Sulawesi two weeks ago, leaving at least 1,754 dead and another 2,549 injured. In the most badly affected places, however, access is still a significant obstacle, said Paul Dillon, spokesperson for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) "Part of the problem is that the areas that are closest to the tsunami, where the tsunami hit hardest, are literally buried in mud".

The official death toll from last week's quake and the tsunami it triggered stands at 1,571, but it will certainly rise.

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Television footage showed personnel loading boxes of food into trucks that will be delivered to outlying areas, where many evacuees are still complaining that aid has been slow to arrive.

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Among them was 39-year-old Rudy Rahman, who said the bodies of his 18- and 16-year-old sons had been found.

Marsudi says 18 countries have offered help, and agreements have been reached with some of them.

Parker says Australian officials are ready to help the Indonesians transfer the aid further in the disaster zone. Many hundreds of people are now entombed in slowly drying mud churned with heaps of debris and vehicles.

National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho provided the updated figure Thursday at a news conference in Jakarta. The United Nations has said some 200,000 people, including tens of thousands of children, are in need of help.

Indonesian officials expect Palu's airport to re-open later in the day as the Indonesian military is bringing in more troops to assist with security and the search effort.

But the trickle of worldwide aid to Palu and local efforts to help the survivors have accelerated in recent days.

Wiranto, who uses one name, said heavy equipment cannot operate in such areas because they could potentially sink in the soft mud.

In coordination with the Government of Indonesia, IOM is preparing to send an aid convoy from the south of the island to the north, where needs are greatest.

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