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Death toll from Indonesia quake and tsunami nears 2,000

The death toll from the earthquake and tsunami on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island is nearing 2,000, but thousands more are believed unaccounted for and officials say search teams plan to stop looking for victims later this week.

The official toll hit 1,948, mostly in the hard-hit city of Palu, said Jamaluddin, an official from the disaster task force who uses one name. He corrected the number during a news conference in Jakarta after initially saying it was 1,944. He said a navy ship had docked in the area and opened a field hospital.

Willem Rampangilei, head of the National Board for Disaster Management, said as many as 5,000 victims could still buried in deep mud in Balaroa and Petobo, two of Palu’s hardest-hit neighbourhoods.

Residents and rescuers walk past a washed out passenger ferry in Wani on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island on Sunday. Aid has been pouring into the disaster-ravaged city of Palu after days of delays.(Mohd Rasfan/AFP/Getty Images)

But he added that number must be verified by his teams because it is an unofficial figure that came from village heads in the area. The Sept. 28 quake caused loose, wet soil to liquefy there. It is too soft to use heavy equipment for recovery, and decomposition of bodies is already advanced.

“It is impossible to rebuild in areas with high liquefaction risk such as Petobo and Balaroa,” he said, adding villages there will be relocated.

Talks were underway with religious authorities and family members to decide whether some areas could be turned into mass graves for victims entombed there with monuments built to remember them.

Officials reiterated that the search is expected to end on Thursday. However, the deadline could be extended if needed.

Rampangilei said life is starting to return to normal in some areas affected by the disaster.

Immediate food and water needs have been met, and the local government has started to function again. Many schools have been completely destroyed, but he said classes will resume where possible. However, many students are still too scared to return.

Credits belong to : www.cbc.ca


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