At mass grave above Indonesian city, many questions linger

Pauline Gross
October 9, 2018

As many as 5,000 people are believed missing from the quake and tsunami that struck Indonesia's Palu city, an official said, an indication that far more may have perished in the twin disaster than the current toll suggests.

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 quake and powerful tsunami hit Palu and its surrounding areas.

People attend a mass prayer for Palu at Talise beach one week after the tsunami hit Palu, Indonesia, October 5, 2018.

"They are in great need because the road is cut off and it's accessible only by air", Second Lieutenant Reinaldo Apri said after piloting a helicopter to rugged Lindu district, some 40 kilometres south of Palu.

He said on local television that survivors in the outlying villages in Petobo, Balaroa and Jono Oge could be relocated and monuments be built in the areas, which now look like wastelands, to remember the victims interred there.

"We just find bodies, every day", says Syafaruddin, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

Most of the dead have been found in the region's main urban centre, the small city of Palu. "I'm from here so all my family are here, so many are gone", he said, reeling off a list of the missing including a sister, an aunt and cousins. He earlier said that 120 foreigners were reported to be in the disaster-struck zone, but 119 have been rescued and evacuated.

Doctors said many patients have been at high risk of infection because they were buried in mud. Indonesia has traditionally been reluctant to be seen as having to rely on outside help for natural disasters.

Royal Australian Air Force Capt. Bryan Parker says the military transport plane will reach central Sulawesi late Thursday from Darwin.

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The official death toll from the September 28 disaster rose to 1,763.

The Red Cross estimates that more than 1.6 million people have been affected.

In a rare move, Indonesia's government has appealed for global help to cope with the tragedy unfolding on Sulawesi island.

National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho provided the updated figure Thursday at a news conference in Jakarta.

The tens of thousands left homeless by the disaster are scattered across Palu and beyond.

PALU, Indonesia, Oct 6 (Reuters) - More than a week after a major quake hit the west coast of Indonesia's Sulawesi island, rescuers workers were focusing on Saturday on what looks sure to be a long, hard search for bodies, many buried in appalling morasses of debris and mud.

Sergeant Syafaruddin, from an army unit in Makassar south of Palu, asked for a body bag to be brought to a spot near where the remnants of an Islamic school now stands. One villager said they survived by ransacking shops.

But the trickle of global aid to Palu and local efforts to help the survivors have accelerated in recent days. Several other nations have also sent planeloads of aid.

Other reports by GizPress

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