Published: Wed, October 10, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Indonesia mulls making quake areas mass graves

Indonesia mulls making quake areas mass graves

A woman cries after learning that her daughter was one of those buried at a mass grave after being recovered in the massive natural disaster and tsunami at Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018.

The number of people believed missing from the quake and tsunami that struck Indonesia's Palu city has soared to 5,000, an official said yesterday (Oct 7), an indication that far more may have perished in the twin disaster than the current toll. Many of lie buried in the mud.

Nugroho confirmed that rescuers found the body of the South Korean, making him the only foreigner known to have perished in the disaster.

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. "We tried everything and have no response", said Philippe Besson, president of the International Emergency Firefighters team.

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.

'We have to make a decision as to when the search for the dead will end.

The government has been considering declaring those communities flattened in Palu as mass graves, and leaving them untouched. Petobo disappeared into the earth as the force of the quake liquified its soft soil.

The troops peeking under collapsed walls and peeling back corrugated sheets do not have to look hard.

'There are no survivors here.

At the flattened Hotel Roa-Roa - where early optimism that survivors might be found faded as the days wore on - rescuers reviewed CCTV footage to get a sense of where the doomed guests could be buried.

Palu residents being evacuated from the city on board an RNZAF Hercules.

In Karawana village, nurse Iyong Lamatowa can offer little more than antibiotics and pain killers to treat those flocking to a makeshift clinic with badly-infected wounds.

Project HOPE, a medical NGO, said only two of its 82 staff in Palu had reported for duty since the quake.

"All this while in this crisis, we don't have water, we don't have food", he said.

Air Loadmaster Sergeant Daniel Swanson and Indonesian soldiers help offload supplies flown into Palu on an RNZAF Hercules.

"There were supplies, but these were looted". No one knows how many people were dragged to their deaths when the ground under Petobo and nearby areas south of Palu dissolved so violently.

A convoy of five hundred trucks laden with donated food, cooking oil and other essentials was on its way to Palu, agriculture minister Amran Sulaiman said in the devastated city on Saturday.

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.

"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".

The country continues to receive worldwide assistance, but the destruction is not able to deliver it to anyone who needs it. Planes with humanitarian aid to Indonesia sent 11 countries. But the way is now open and aid is trickling in to the area that rescue workers feared had been obliterated.

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