Indonesia quake: Death toll exceeds 1700, as many as 5000 missing

Indonesian soldiers unloading supplies brought in by the New Zealanders

Indonesia's disaster agency says the death toll from the quake and tsunami that struck central Sulawesi island a week ago has surged past 1,500.

Spokesman of the national disaster management agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said that most of the bodies were retrieved from Palu, the provincial capital, followed by the districts of Donggala, Sigi, Parigi Mountong and a district of Pasang Kayu in nearby West Sulawesi province.

Relief supplies from Japan, including tents and generators, have arrived at Indonesia's Sulawesi Island, which was devastated by a magnitude-7.5 quake and tsunami on September 28th.

Australia's first delivery of urgent supplies will arrive soon in Indonesia to help up to 10,000 people displaced by the natural disaster and tsunami. Besson said it will bring heavy equipment early Friday to try and rescue the person.

He said on local television that survivors in the outlying villages in Petobo, Balaroa and Jono Oge could be relocated and monuments be built in the areas, which now look like wastelands, to remember the victims interred there.

"Most of the victims were found in Palu and they were hit by tsunami, particularly in the coastal areas near Talise beach", the spokesman said. The French rescuers said on their Facebook page that 40 people, including six workers, were still missing there.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla, visiting the disaster zone, said recovery would be completed in two years, beginning with a two-month emergency response phase when everyone who lost their house would get temporary shelter.

"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". They said they had clean water and noodles but not much else.

He said death toll is expected to rise as there are reports that hundreds of locals were feared to be still trapped under the ruins of the houses leveled by the quakes.

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

A villager carries his belongings at Balaroa village in Poso of Central Sulawesi province, Indonesia, Oct. 8, 2018.

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

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. "She was wearing the exact scout uniform, with a sweater with the words "Geng 97", her father, Anwar, who like many Indonesian goes by only one name, told Reuters. The military planes are also being used to evacuate injured people and other survivors from Palu, the biggest city in the earthquake-hit region.

Indonesia has the world's biggest Muslim population but also pockets of Christians, including on Sulawesi, and other religions.

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