Death toll from Indonesian earthquake passes 2,000

Death toll from Indonesian earthquake passes 2,000

The death toll from the earthquake and tsunami on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island has climbed past 2,000, officials said, as authorities prepared to end the search for thousands of victims feared buried in mud and rubble.

Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the toll from the September 28 twin disasters had climbed to 2,010.

He said authorities will hold prayers on Thursday to mark the end of the search in the Petobo, Balaroa and Jono Oge areas of Palu city, where the quake caused loose soil to liquefy, swallowing houses and burying the occupants.

Rescuers remove the remains of an earthquake victim (Dita Alangkara/AP)
Rescuers remove the remains of an earthquake victim (Dita Alangkara/AP)

Efforts to retrieve bodies, many entombed under mud and rubble as deep as 10ft, will not continue because of the difficult terrain and advanced state of decomposition that makes bodies unrecognisable and could cause contamination, Mr Nugroho said.

“On October 11, we will hold joint prayers in Balaroa, Petobo and Jono Oge to end the evacuation of bodies,” he told a daily news briefing on the relief efforts.

While the official search will end, Mr Nugroho said authorities will not stop villagers from continuing to dig through the ruins for loved ones.

The areas, which now look like vast wastelands, will be turned into memorial parks to remember the victims, and survivors will be relocated to safer locations, he said.

An area affected by earthquake and liquefaction in Palu (Fauzy Chaniago/AP)
An area affected by earthquake and liquefaction in Palu (Fauzy Chaniago/AP)

Mr Nugroho said the disaster agency has not been able to verify unofficial estimates from village chiefs in Balaroa and Petobo that 5,000 people are missing in the two areas.

He said the region had recorded 508 aftershocks since the magnitude 7.5 earthquake, which triggered a giant wall of water that destroyed large areas of land in Palu and surrounding areas.

The disaster destroyed more than 65,000 homes and buildings, and displaced more than 70,000 people.

Thousands are still living in temporary shelters and tents across Palu, but life is beginning to return to normal in some areas, with plans for redevelopment under way, officials said.

- Press Association

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