Volunteers bury more bodies from Indonesia quake

Logistics Specialist Corporal Karyn Kjestrup with an Indonesian man and his son being evacuated on the RNZAF aircraft

Indonesian rescue workers will stop searching for the bodies of victims of an quake and tsunami on the island of Sulawesi on Thursday, the national disaster mitigation agency said on Sunday. They were from Palu and the surrounding districts struck by the disasters last Friday.

As of Thursday, the official death toll was 1,424, with 113 people missing.

Balaroa was one of the areas particularly hard hit by liquefaction, which turns the ground into a roiling quagmire, destroying houses and dragging people under the mud and debris.

But disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said a day earlier that many victims could still be buried in deep mud in areas where the September 28 quake caused loose, wet soil to liquefy and swallow entire neighbourhoods. "It is not easy to obtain the exact number of those trapped by landslides, or liquefaction, or mud".

The government targets to end search operations by Thursday, almost two weeks after the disaster, at which time those unaccounted for will be declared missing and considered dead, Nugroho said.

The official death toll rose to 1,948 and bodies are still being recovered.

"The scale of destruction was worse than I had anticipated".

Petobo, a cluster of villages in Palu, was virtually wiped out by the powerful quake and wall of water that devastated Palu.

Providing emergency healthcare is also challenging, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which said that around 2,500 people have been seriously injured in the disaster.

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Hopes of finding anyone alive a full eight days since the disaster have all but faded, though the search has not been officially called off. Then, we later must decide when the area will be designated a mass grave, ' he told reporters late Friday. Numerous missing are believed to be dead as rescue efforts enter its second and final week.

While grappling with immediate relief needs, the government is also mapping out plans to help more than 70,000 people, including tens of thousands of children, who have been displaced by the disasters to rebuild their lives. Traumatised survivors are desperate for any help.

A floating hospital run by the Indonesian navy and docked in Palu has already assisted with the delivery of four babies, local media reported.

A week after a major natural disaster brought devastation to Indonesia's Sulawesi island, Ichsan Hidayat told how the bodies of his sister and her 43-day-old daughter were found under a sea of mud and debris, the mother clutching her baby to her chest.

Michael Lesmeister, director of Germany's ISAR-Germany rescue group, said landing permits for his staff and cargo had come through and, after a three-day wait, they were set to install a water-purification system in Palu.

The Hercules was one of the first foreign aircraft to deliver aid to Palu.

But relief workers face a monumental task ahead.

"There is nowhere else to get food, nowhere is open", said 18-year-old Sela Fauziah in Palu's central market, where she queued with hundreds for essential food items being distributed by soldiers. The report said the two were paragliding athletes taking part in an event in the area.

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