Friday, 16 November, 2018

Death toll tops 1500 in Indonesia natural disaster and tsunami

CPL Toni Thompson loads families as they board a NZ Defence Force Hercules in Palu. The evacuees were taken to Balikpapan airport CPL Toni Thompson loads families as they board a NZ Defence Force Hercules in Palu. The evacuees were taken to Balikpapan airport
Kenny Thornton | 09 October, 2018, 17:26

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.

A team of French rescue experts began hunting through a huge expanse of debris on the outskirts of the Indonesian city of Palu yesterday, looking for hands, feet or any body parts of natural disaster victims sticking out of the mud.

"They said they would come with the heavy machines but they didn't", she said.

Bodies were still being removed from the other worst affected areas, such as the village of Petobo - about 7 km southeast of Palu - and Balaroa, where NGO workers estimated that over 1,000 people could still be buried.

As the sun slipped behind the mountains and a gentle breeze blew onshore, hundreds of people gathered on an Indonesian beach Friday to chant a Muslim prayer - and remember those they lost - one week after a massive quake and tsunami ravaged the area, killing more than 1,500 people.

They are hoping more aid will arrive in the shattered city of Palu and the surrounding Donggala district on the island of Sulawesi.

National police spokesman Brigadier General Dedi Prasetyo said security will be ramped up to ensure law and order after 92 people were arrested for looting goods such as motor oil, tyres and farming equipment. He earlier said that 120 foreigners were reported to be in the disaster-struck zone, but 119 have been rescued and evacuated. They said they had clean water and noodles but not much else. Indonesia has traditionally been reluctant to be seen as having to rely on outside help for natural disasters. Many hundreds of people are now entombed in slowly drying mud churned with heaps of debris and vehicles.

The government shunned foreign aid this year when earthquakes struck the island of Lombok but it accepted help from overseas for Sulawesi.

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"You have people circling those areas trying to get in but it's literally inaccessible", he said, adding that even standing just 200 metres from the remains of buildings "you can't actually get into those areas because the mud is thigh- or waist-deep".

Spokesman of joint task force for Central Sulawesi province Col. Infantry Muh Thohir said that a total of 2,549 people were still in hospitals for medical treatment after the disasters hit the central province on September 28.

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

Evacuees had queued to get on to the Hercules C-130, many carrying backpacks and bags, and said they had lost homes and relatives, a New Zealand Defence Force statement said.

"I am coming to Palu to report that we need tents, because 95 % of our village has been destroyed", said Simsom Mudju from Lindu, who clambered aboard the chopper to tell the outside world about his marooned community's plight.

"The search for the victim is expected to be completed on Thursday", Sutopo told Xinhua.

Several non-governmental groups were also arriving.

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