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09 October 2018, 05:27 | Erica Roy
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The death toll from the devastating natural disaster and tsunami on Indonesia's Sulawesi island neared 2,000 on Monday, but thousands more are believed unaccounted for and officials said search teams plan to stop looking for victims later this week.
Indonesia's disaster agency said the death toll had climbed to 1649, with at least 265 people still missing, although it said that number could be higher.
Hardest-hit was Palu city on Sulawesi island, which was left in ruins after it was struck by a powerful quake and a wall of water that reduced whole neighborhoods to piles of wood and twisted metal.
"If we see body parts sticking out, we're going to dig to get the body out".
SEARCH teams in Indonesia have pulled more bodies from neighbourhoods in the natural disaster and tsunami-stricken city of Palu as further global aid arrived and humanitarian workers fanned out.
The security minister, Wiranto, says efforts to retrieve bodies are problematic in parts of the hard-hit city of Palu, including the Balaroa and Petobo neighborhoods, where the September 28 quake caused loose soil to liquefy, causing hundreds of homes to be sucked into quicksand-like mud and burying possibly hundreds of victims.
"I hope my dead son has gone to heaven because he was in the middle of praying", said Abu Shamsuddin, who attended Friday prayers in the afternoon outside the damaged Agung Mosque in Palu city. Even if they give up, we won't. Homes were sucked into the earth, torn apart and thrust hundreds of metres by the churning mud.
"It might take 4 to 5 months to remove all the soil, and that's with the excavators", he said.
Two of his soldiers emerge from the ditch with the bag sagging in the middle but looking too light to be a corpse - they said they had found the heads of two adults and one child. "Where are they? What if they are still alive?"
'We have vaccinated our teams, but we need to be extra cautious'. Eight victims in black body bags were arranged in a row at the crumpled neighbourhood of Balaroa, destined for a mass grave.
Royal Australian Air Force Capt. Bryan Parker says the military transport plane will reach central Sulawesi late Thursday from Darwin.
Parker says Australian officials are ready to help the Indonesians transfer the aid further in the disaster zone.
The government shunned foreign aid this year when earthquakes struck the island of Lombok but said it would accept help from overseas for Sulawesi.
Sergeant Syafaruddin, from an army unit in Makassar south of Palu, asks for a body bag to be brought across to a spot near where the remnants of an Islamic school now stands. Deputy Foreign Minister Abdurrahman Mohammad Fachir told a briefing in Jakarta 25 countries and four foreign organisations had offered help and ministries were coordinating to facilitate the arrival of their aid. Immediate food and water needs have been met, and the local government has started to function again.
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