Indonesia death toll nears 1,800 as searchers say they will stop hunting for victims of the earthquake and tsunami this week

Sunday, October 7, 2018
By Paul Martin

The death toll from last week’s disaster in Indonesia has climbed to 1,763
More than 5,000 people remain missing on the island of Sulawese
A 7.5magnitude earthquake hit Sulawesi island on Friday, 28th September
This was followed by 20ft tsunami waves which levelled whole communities
Officials say the search for both bodies and survivors will stop on Thursday

7 October 2018

The official death toll in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami which struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi more than a week ago has now climbed to 1,763.

The figure is expected to continue to rise, however the official search for victims, both surviving and dead, will stop on Thursday, the national disaster mitigation agency said today.

This leaves rescuers just four days to find the 5,000 people who are still missing in the wake of the disaster.

Bodies are still being recovered, especially from ruins of buildings in the small city of Palu and from neighbourhoods hit by liquefaction, a phenomenon that turns the ground into a roiling quagmire, in the south of city.

‘Evacuation stops on October 11,’ the national disaster mitigation agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news briefing.

In describing the evacuation, he used an Indonesian word that applies to the search and retrieval of both living and dead people.

‘Victims who have not been found are declared missing,’ he said.

Some limited searching might still be undertaken but large-scale searches with many personnel and heavy equipment would cease, he said.

Many hundreds of people are still buried in mud and debris in the south of Palu, where neighbourhoods were obliterated by liquefaction and desperate relatives have been seeking help to find loved ones.

Dozens of rescuers removed 34 bodies from one place on Saturday.

Nugroho said the debris would be removed from those places and they would be turned into public spaces like parks and sports venues.

‘We don’t want the community to be relocated to such dangerous places,’ he said.

Most of the dead have been found in Palu, the region’s main urban centre. Figures for more remote areas, some just re-connected to the outside world by road, are trickling in.

Sulawesi is one of Indonesia’s five main islands and, like the others, is exposed to frequent earthquakes and tsunamis.

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