Approximately 2000 bodies have been recovered from Palu since an earthquake and tsunami struck the Indonesian city, an official said Monday, warning the number would rise with thousands still missing.
The death toll from the twin disaster on Sulawesi island that wiped out entire suburbs in Palu has reached 1,944, said local military spokesman M. Thohir.
“That number is expected to rise, because we have not received orders to halt the search for bodies,” Thohir, who is also a member of the government’s official Palu quake taskforce, told AFP on Monday.
According to authorities, as many as 5000 are believed to be missing in two hard-hit areas since the September 28 earthquake disaster— indicating far more may have perished than the current toll.
Hopes of finding survivors have diminished. The disaster agency said the official search for the unaccounted would continue until October 11 at which point they would be listed as missing, presumed dead. The government has said it will declare those communities flattened in Palu as mass graves and leave them untouched.
Gopal, whose aunt and uncle are missing, picked through wreckage Monday knowing just days were left to find his loved ones.
“Even if they (search teams) stop looking, we will still try to find them ourselves,” the 40-year-old said in Balaroa, one of the hardest hit neighbourhoods.
Rescuers have had numerous challenges in extracting decomposing bodies from the mess left behind by the disaster. 5,000 people were feared buried at Balaroa and Petobo, another decimated community, officials said.
Relief efforts have been escalated. Food and clean water are not adequate and many have to rely on handouts to survive. Helicopters have been running supply drops to the isolated communities outside Palu, where the full extent of the damage is still not entirely clear.
The Red Cross said Monday it had treated more than 1,800 people at medical clinics and administered first aid to a similar number in the immediate disaster zone.
The nation of Indonesia lies around the world’s most tectonically active region, and its population of 260 million people are vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.