Published: Tue, October 09, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

5000 feared missing as search for Indonesia quake victims continues

5000 feared missing as search for Indonesia quake victims continues

Officials said Saturday the death toll had climbed to 1,649, with more than a thousand feared still missing in the seaside city on Sulawesi island.

Indonesian authorities on Sunday said 1,763 people were killed and 5,000 people were missing from the devastating natural disaster and tsunami that struck Palu on Indonesia's Sulawesi island on September 28, reported AFP.

"The search for the victims is expected to be completed on Thursday", an official said.

"I hope my dead son has gone to heaven because he was in the middle of praying", said Abu Shamsuddin, who attended Friday prayers in the afternoon outside the damaged Agung Mosque in Palu city.

Hundreds of bodies are believed buried in deep mud in these areas, but officials have said it is not safe for heavy equipment to operate there and also they fear the risk of the spread of disease from decomposed bodies.

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.

Petobo, a cluster of villages in Palu, was one of the worst-hit by the powerful quake and wall of water that devastated the coastal city.

The 7.5 magnitude natural disaster struck on 28 September, bringing down buildings and, in some areas, turning the ground to liquid in a process called "liquefaction" and moving entire neighbourhoods.

Vast numbers of decomposing bodies could still be buried beneath this once-thriving neighbourhood, the search and rescue agency said.

In Balaroa, a massive government housing complex was also subsumed by the quake and rescuers have struggled to extract bodies from the tangled mess in the aftermath of the disaster.

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Rescue teams are still searching for survivors and bodies in the rubble and mudslides.

Wiranto said on local television that the government is discussing with local and religious authorities and victims' families the possibility of halting the search for victims in such areas and turning them into mass graves.

Muhlis, whose uncle was still missing in Balaroa, said the missing and dead should be honoured respectfully.

The national disaster agency says 1,700 homes in one neighbourhood alone were swallowed up and hundreds of people killed. Traumatised survivors are desperate for any help.

Planeloads of supplies were landing with increasing frequency in Palu, where daisy chains of troops unloaded supplies directly onto trucks or helicopters.

Tonnes of donations from Australia and the United States reached Palu on Sunday morning aboard Hercules military aircraft.

But relief workers face an vast task.

Tens of thousands have been left homeless by the disaster and are completely dependent on handouts to survive.

At least 200 people including soldiers filled the grey pews of the Protestant Manunggal church in Palu for the second of three services planned Sunday. Figures for more remote areas, some still cut off by destroyed roads and landslides, are only trickling in, if at all.

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