Search for the dead draws to a close in Palu

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD -

PALU: The re­build­ing of Palu will take two years af­ter the search for vic­tims buried in the earth­quake and tsunami-shat­tered neigh­bour­hoods of the In­done­sian city ended yes­ter­day, af­ter be­ing ex­tended a day.

UN sec­re­tary-gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res yes­ter­day toured one of the worst-hit ar­eas with Vice-Pres­i­dent Jusuf Kalla and spoke with sur­vivors be­ing treated at an out­door tent hos­pi­tal and evac­u­a­tion cen­tre.

“We are with the peo­ple of In­done­sia and Su­lawesi,” Mr Guter­res said in the neigh­bour­hood of Balaroa. “The UN is with you to sup­port govern­ment-led res­cue and re­lief ef­forts.”

Of­fi­cials plan prayers in ar­eas such as Balaroa, Pe­tobo and Jono Oge where the force of the Septem­ber 28, mag­ni­tude-7.5 quake liq­ue­fied soft soil and tore apart neigh­bour­hoods.

As­sess­ments of the cost of re­con­struc­tion were still be­ing carried out, na­tional disas­ter agency’s spokesman Su­topo Purwo Nu­groho said.

“Judg­ing the con­di­tions now, the re­con­struc­tion pe­riod will be from 2019 to 2020,” he said. “We ex­pect full re­cov­ery by 2021.”

The agency said the of­fi­cial death toll was 2073 as of Thurs­day, with most fa­tal­i­ties in Palu.

Of­fi­cially, 680 peo­ple are miss­ing but of­fi­cials have ac­know- ledged the num­ber could be sev­eral thou­sand be­cause hun­dreds of homes were sucked into the earth.

Save the Chil­dren’s af­fil­i­ated or­gan­i­sa­tion in In­done­sia said there could be as many as 1500 chil­dren miss­ing.

Selina Sum­bung, the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s chief, said the end of the search mis­sion was ac­cepted with a “heavy heart”. “Chil­dren are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble in disasters, and to think that so many will never have the chance to grow up is heart­break­ing,” she said.

Cen­tral Su­lawesi Gover­nor Longki Djang­gola said the disas­ter re­lief pe­riod, due to ex­pire yes­ter­day, was ex­tended by two weeks to Oc­to­ber 26. Fire­fight­ers, sol­diers and other per­son­nel searched the rub­ble on Thurs­day in a last push to find vic­tims.

They also burned de­bris and ex­ca­va­tors dug into the tan­gled re­mains of build­ings.

Heavy equip­ment hasn’t been able to op­er­ate in neigh­bour­hoods where the earth turned to mud, ham­per­ing the search ef­fort, and many bodies have de­com­posed be­yond recog­ni­tion be­cause of the trop­i­cal heat.

Kilo­me­tres of coast­line were trashed by the tsunami that fol­lowed the quake, with houses swept off foun­da­tions, trucks crum­pled and nu­mer­ous ships beached.

Get­ting vi­tal sup­plies to af­fected ar­eas has proved chal­leng­ing as flights into Palu re­main lim­ited by its small air­port, and over­land travel is slow.

The UN has sought $US50.5m for ur­gent re­lief to as­sist sur­vivors in need. In­done­sia ini­tially re­fused in­ter­na­tional help but four days af­ter the disas­ter Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo agreed to al­low in over­seas aid.

Aid or­gan­i­sa­tions say a dearth of clean drink­ing wa­ter and med­i­cal sup­plies re­mains a real con­cern in the coastal city of 350,000.

Nearly 90,000 peo­ple were dis­placed by the quake, forc­ing them into evac­u­a­tion cen­tres.

GETTY IMAGES

Tina waits for news of her daugh­ters Mar­sha and Keila as they search for vic­tims in Palu’s liq­ue­fac­tion-hit Balaroa neigh­bour­hood yes­ter­day

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