Indonesia death toll nears 1,800 as searchers say they will stop hunting for victims

The official death toll in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami which struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi more than a week ago has now climbed to 1,763. 

The figure is expected to continue to rise, however the official search for victims, both surviving and dead, will stop on Thursday, the national disaster mitigation agency said today.

This leaves rescuers just four days to find the 5,000 people who are still missing in the wake of the disaster.  

Destruction: An Indonesian trooper stands beside a toppled mosque as officials announced that the government's recovery efforts will end on Thursday

Destruction: An Indonesian trooper stands beside a toppled mosque as officials announced that the government's recovery efforts will end on Thursday

Destruction: An Indonesian trooper stands beside a toppled mosque as officials announced that the government’s recovery efforts will end on Thursday

Survivor: Nonlis Kando, 35, stands among debris in what used to be her home in Petobo, Indonesia's Central Sulawesi

Survivor: Nonlis Kando, 35, stands among debris in what used to be her home in Petobo, Indonesia's Central Sulawesi

Survivor: Nonlis Kando, 35, stands among debris in what used to be her home in Petobo, Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi

A few days left: Members of a team from the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency  pull out a victim from a collapsed restaurant in Palu 

A few days left: Members of a team from the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency  pull out a victim from a collapsed restaurant in Palu 

A few days left: Members of a team from the Indonesian National Search and Rescue Agency  pull out a victim from a collapsed restaurant in Palu 

Bodies are still being recovered, especially from ruins of buildings in the small city of Palu and from neighbourhoods hit by liquefaction, a phenomenon that turns the ground into a roiling quagmire, in the south of city.

‘Evacuation stops on October 11,’ the national disaster mitigation agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news briefing.

In describing the evacuation, he used 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. 

In ruins: An aerial view of the destruction caused by an earthquake and liquefaction in the Petabo neighbourhood in Palu

In ruins: An aerial view of the destruction caused by an earthquake and liquefaction in the Petabo neighbourhood in Palu

In ruins: An aerial view of the destruction caused by an earthquake and liquefaction in the Petabo neighbourhood in Palu

This neighbourhood was affected by liquefaction, a phenomenon that turns the ground into a roiling quagmire, in the south of city

This neighbourhood was affected by liquefaction, a phenomenon that turns the ground into a roiling quagmire, in the south of city

This neighbourhood was affected by liquefaction, a phenomenon that turns the ground into a roiling quagmire, in the south of city

Survivors wait to get evacuated at Mutiara Sis Al-Jufri Airport in Palu, Central Sulawesi

Survivors wait to get evacuated at Mutiara Sis Al-Jufri Airport in Palu, Central Sulawesi

Survivors wait to get evacuated at Mutiara Sis Al-Jufri Airport in Palu, Central Sulawesi

Aid has poured into disaster-ravaged Palu today, after days of delays as efforts ramped up to reach 200,000 people in desperate need following a deadly quake-tsunami

Aid has poured into disaster-ravaged Palu today, after days of delays as efforts ramped up to reach 200,000 people in desperate need following a deadly quake-tsunami

Aid has poured into disaster-ravaged Palu today, after days of delays as efforts ramped up to reach 200,000 people in desperate need following a deadly quake-tsunami

Indonesian villagers receive aid at the Proo village, Lindu district in Sigi, Sulawesi

Indonesian villagers receive aid at the Proo village, Lindu district in Sigi, Sulawesi

Indonesian villagers receive aid at the Proo village, Lindu district in Sigi, Sulawesi

Many hundreds of people are still buried in mud and debris in the south of Palu, where neighbourhoods 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.

Nugroho said the debris would be removed from those places and they would be turned into public spaces like parks and sports venues.

‘We don’t want the community to be relocated to such dangerous places,’ he said.

Most of the dead have been found in Palu, the region’s main urban centre. Figures for more remote areas, some just re-connected to the outside world by road, are trickling in.

Sulawesi is one of Indonesia’s five main islands and, like the others, is exposed to frequent earthquakes and tsunamis.

Working together: Ilham Kamal, right, 26, listens to a family member as they assist in the clearing up of their neighbourhood in Petobo, central Sulawesi

Working together: Ilham Kamal, right, 26, listens to a family member as they assist in the clearing up of their neighbourhood in Petobo, central Sulawesi

Working together: Ilham Kamal, right, 26, listens to a family member as they assist in the clearing up of their neighbourhood in Petobo, central Sulawesi

A girl is seen covering her face from the stench, as rescue workers identify bodies before sending them to a mass grave in Balaroa, central Sulawesi

A girl is seen covering her face from the stench, as rescue workers identify bodies before sending them to a mass grave in Balaroa, central Sulawesi

A girl is seen covering her face from the stench, as rescue workers identify bodies before sending them to a mass grave in Balaroa, central Sulawesi

In 2004, a quake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

A big aid operation is gearing up to help hard-hit communities where some 70,000 people have been displaced.

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.

The government says it particularly needs aircraft, generators, tents, water treatment and field medical facilities.

Link hienalouca.com

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