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Indonesia:Government to stop search for bodies on October 11

Indonesian rescue workers will stop searching for the bodies of victims of an earthquake and tsunami on the island of Sulawesi on October 11, the national disaster mitigation agency said on Sunday.

The quake struck Sulawesi island on September 28, launching waves as high as six metres and slammed into Sulawesi at 800 km/h.

On Sunday, the death toll went up to 1,763, with 2,632 people seriously wounded.

More than 70,000 homes were destroyed or damaged.

Indonesia’s government has said search efforts will continue until Thursday, after which they hope people “cant start living like normal”.

“Evacuation stops on October 11,” the national disaster mitigation agency spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news briefing, using an Indonesian word that applies to the search and retrieval of both living and dead people.

“Victims who have not been found are declared missing,” he said. Some limited searching might still be undertaken but large-scale searches with many personnel and heavy equipment would cease, he said.

Many hundreds of people are still buried in mud and debris in the south of Palu, where neighborhoods were obliterated by liquefaction and desperate relatives have been seeking help to find loved ones.

Dozens of rescuers removed 34 bodies from one place on Saturday.

So far, 186 people have been rescued in liquefaction areas, where the earth shifted and swallowed up buildings and people. Government officials are currently considering designating some areas as mass graves as hopes of recovering bodies fade.

Aid continues to arrive for Palu IDPs. Photo/Courtesy

Rescuers issued a fresh public health warning on Saturday as more decaying corpses were unearthed from beneath the ruined city of Palu.

There are fears that vast numbers of bodies could be buried beneath Petobo and Balaroa – two areas virtually wiped off the map.

“Most of the bodies we have found are not intact and that poses a danger for the rescuers. We have to be very careful to avoid contamination,” Yusuf Latif, a spokesman for the country’s search and rescue effort told the AFP news agency.

UN seeks $50m for ‘immediate’ disaster aid
The United Nations has said it is seeking $50.5m “for immediate relief” to help victims of the devastating quake and tsunami in Indonesia.

The UN plan, published on Friday and developed in consultation with Indonesian government officials, outlined “how the humanitarian community working in the country will provide targeted, technical assistance”.

The UN plan aims to provide help to 191,000 people over the next three months, according to a statement by the global body’s Indonesia office.

According to UN estimates, 65,000 homes have suffered some form of damage, a figure that includes 10,000 homes “completely destroyed by the tsunami” and 15,000 homes severely damaged by the earthquake.

Indonesia has often been reluctant to be seen as relying on outside help to cope with disasters.

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