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5000 feared missing as Indonesia quake death toll rises

09 October 2018

The death toll from the quake and tsunami which devastated Indonesia's Sulawesi island has topped 1,700, as officials fear another 5,000 people could be missing.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia's disaster agency, said those who had not been found by Thursday would be listed as missing, presumed dead.

The quake and subsequent tsunami that struck Palu, Central Sulawesi, on 28 September are estimated to have destroyed 10,000 houses and damaged a further 55,000.

The tsunami, which followed the quakes with the height of 0.5 to 3 meters, ravaged coastal areas near the Talisa beach in Palu and Donggala district, according to the meteorology and geophysics agency.

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.

The dead were still being recovered more than a week after the double disaster.

"[The survivors] can not stay for very long in the displaced persons camps because [the children] must return to school soon", BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said at a press conference on Sunday, adding that emergency schools may be set up using tents. Figures for more remote areas, some only just re-connected to the outside world by road, are only trickling in. He earlier said that 120 foreigners were reported to be in the disaster-struck zone, but 119 have been rescued and evacuated.

Marsudi says 18 countries have offered help, and agreements have been reached with some of them.

Indonesian soldiers unloading supplies brought in by the New Zealanders.

The aid is part of a $3.6 million relief commitment, including more than 50 medical professionals, that Australia made on Wednesday.

The official death toll from last week's quake and the tsunami it triggered stands at 1,571, but it will certainly rise.

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Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman of Indonesia's Mitigation and Disaster Agency (BNPB), holds a second news conference to brief reporters, September 29, 2018.

Indonesia has traditionally been reluctant to be seen as relying on outside help to cope with disasters, and the government shunned foreign aid this year when earthquakes struck the island of Lombok.

Outside the church, Malonda said the intensity of the disaster had taken even scientists by surprise and called it the will of God. One villager said they survived by ransacking shops.

Michael Lesmeister, director of Germany's ISAR-Germany (International Search and 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 search for the victim is expected to be completed on Thursday", Sutopo told Xinhua.

In coordination with the Government of Indonesia, IOM is preparing to send an aid convoy from the south of the island to the north, where needs are greatest.

5000 feared missing as Indonesia quake death toll rises