Indonesia’s search for disaster dead nears end
INDONESIA’S search for victims buried in neighbourhoods annihilated by an earthquake and tsunami is nearing its end almost two weeks after the double disasters hit the remote city of Palu in central Sulawesi.
Authorities had said the search and rescue effort would end Thursday with prayers in areas of the city such as Balaroa, Petobo and Jono Oge where the force of the quake liquefied soft soil and tore apart neighbourhoods.
But national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference it would continue for one more day after requests from families of the missing.
He said it will take two years for the region to rebuild and recover.
The agency said the official death toll had risen to 2073 as of Thursday, with most of the fatalities in Palu.
Officially, 680 people are missing but officials have acknowledged 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 is 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 heart-breaking,” she said in a statement.
Central Sulawesi Gov. Longki Djanggola said the disaster relief period, which was to expire on Saturday, has been 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 due to the tropical heat.
Meanwhile, an earthquake collapsed homes on Indonesia’s Java island, killing at least three people, and shook the tourist hotspot of Bali on Thursday.
The disaster agency said the nighttime quake was centred at sea, 55 kilometres northeast of Situbondo city, and also felt in Lombok. The US Geological Survey said it had a 6.0 magnitude.
The agency said the worst affected area was in Sumenep district, East Java, where three people died in one village and several homes were damaged. – Associated Press