In­done­sia con­sid­ers use of mass graves

Death toll from earth­quake, tsunami now re­ported at 1,649

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - NATION / WORLD - By Stephen Wright and Tas­sa­nee Ve­jpongsa As­so­ci­ated Press

sons had been found. His youngest son re­mained miss­ing. He watched as res­cue work­ers un­loaded the bags from a truck. His wife wept in­con­solably.

“They were found in front of my brother’s house op­po­site the mosque,” Rah­man said. “They found them hold­ing each other. These two brothers were hug­ging each other.”

Balaroa was one of the ar­eas hard­est hit by the Sept. 28 mag­ni­tude 7.5 quake, which threw homes in the neigh­bor­hood tens of me­ters and left cars up­right or perched on erup­tions of con­crete and as­phalt. Many chil­dren were in the area’s mosque at the time of the quake for Qu­ran recita­tion. An as­sis­tant to the Imam had said none sur­vived.

In­done­sia’s top se­cu­rity min­is­ter, Wi­ranto, who uses a sin­gle name, said the gov­ern­ment is mulling the pos­si­bil­ity of turn­ing Balaroa and Pe­tobo, an­other neigh­bor­hood in Palu, into mass graves. Pe­tobo dis­ap­peared into the earth as the force of the quake liqui­fied its soft soil. Liq­ue­fac­tion also struck a large sec­tion of Balaroa.

Wi­ranto said ef­forts to re­trieve bod­ies are prob­lem­atic in those neigh­bor­hoods, where homes were sucked into the earth, bury­ing pos­si­bly hun­dreds of vic­tims.

He said it’s not safe for heavy equip­ment to op­er­ate there.

Wi­ranto also said on lo­cal tele­vi­sion that the gov­ern­ment is dis­cussing with lo­cal and re­li­gious au­thor­i­ties and vic­tims’ fam­i­lies the pos­si­bil­ity of halt­ing the search and turn­ing the ar­eas into mass graves. The vic­tims can be con­sid­ered “mar­tyrs,” he said.

A Ja­panese Self De­fense Force plane landed at Palu’s air­port Satur­day morn­ing. Sol­diers un­loaded tons of sup­plies, in­clud­ing medicine and small por­ta­ble gen­er­a­tors, in boxes em­bla­zoned with the Ja­panese flag and the words “From the Peo­ple of Ja­pan.” Sev­eral other na­tions have also sent planeloads of aid. Video showed the mil­i­tary drop­ping sup­plies from he­li­copters in places and a large Red Cross ship docked at a port in the re­gion.

In the dusty one-road vil­lage of Pewunu, ex­cited chil­dren shouted “Red Cross! Red Cross!” as one of the aid group’s med­i­cal teams ar­rived and set up a makeshift clinic in a field where evac­uees were sleep­ing un­der tarps. One vil­lager said they sur­vived by ran­sack­ing shops.

Vol­un­teers laid out a big white tarp on a stage in front of the vil­lage of­fice, plonked a green desk on it and in­ter­viewed peo­ple about their needs as dozens milled around.

Doc­tors per­formed med­i­cal checks on el­derly res­i­dents who emerged from tents and climbed the stage’s stairs with canes or oth­ers sup­port­ing them.

Peo­ple liv­ing in the camp said two res­i­dents died in col­laps­ing houses in the vil­lage. They said they had clean wa­ter and noo­dles but not much else.

Tatan Syu­flana / As­so­ci­ated Press

In­done­sian and Ja­pan mil­i­tary per­son­nel un­load re­lief aid from a Ja­pan Air Force cargo plane at the Mu­tiara Sis Al-jufri air­port in Palu, Cen­tral Su­lawesi, In­done­sia, Satur­day.

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